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Wildcats ready for showdown

Improved Golden Valley squad sharpens West Ranch for Hart match

Posted: November 3, 2009 10:18 p.m.
Updated: November 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch's Julia Thomas (17) tips the ball over the net against Golden Valley Tuesday at West Ranch High School. The Wildcats swept 3-0.

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With a showdown against Hart on the horizon, West Ranch wanted to be as sharp as possible heading into that match.

The challenge provided by Golden Valley on Tuesday should help.

Outside hitter Allison Summers had 13 kills, 13 digs and five aces to lead the Wildcats past a game Grizzlies squad 3-0 at West Ranch High School.

West Ranch (20-9, 6-3) won by scores of 25-11, 25-14 and 25-15, but the Grizzlies committed few unforced errors and made the hosts work to beat them.

“We did really well,” said West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks. “One of our goals was to use this match to prepare for Hart. We’re basically doing things we knew we had to do against Hart.”

One of those things is mixing up the offense. West Ranch kept setting different players, and those players kept changing the direction and placement of their shots.

The strategy kept Golden Valley (0-14, 0-9) guessing, but Grizzlies head coach Jeff Cody liked how his team responded.

“I was content with today’s match,” he said. “The goal was to improve as much as we can. The fact that we scored more points than last time against West Ranch is good.”

West Ranch’s offense really started to click in the middle of the third game.

Golden Valley took advantage of West Ranch mistakes pull within 14-12, but the Wildcats began to overpower the Grizzlies with their passing and powerful kills.

“We were definitely mixing up our offense,” Summers said. “Our confidence level has definitely stepped up in the second half of league season.”

West Ranch’s confidence might have been a little too high at the start of the match, when Golden Valley scored two quick points to take an early lead.

Summers soon stepped up to serve, and the Wildcats earned three straight points to get off and running and win the first game.

“We had a moment where we realized we can’t let up,” Summers said. “We know Golden Valley got better. We were on our toes.”

The Grizzlies had stretches in the second game where they kept rallies alive, and those sequences sometimes ended with West Ranch committing unforced errors.

Other times, however, Golden Valley’s youth showed, and West Ranch eventually won the second game.

“During long rallies, our inexperience comes out, whether it’s players out of position or whatever else,” Cody said. “We’ve kind of learned to celebrate small victories. When we get a dig on (Summers), who’s a fantastic hitter, it’s something we couldn’t do two months ago.”

Golden Valley’s Sam Holcombe led the team with four kills, while Erin Kelley had 14 assists and Pinar Sayim had five digs.

West Ranch outside Hannah Orlandi had 11 kills, while middle blocker Courtney Cessna had eight. Setter Tani Slauson had 35 assists, libero Shelby Kunz had 11 digs and freshman Julia Thomas had three blocks after being called up from junior varsity.

West Ranch will now host Hart Thursday, and the Wildcats have a chance to clinch a share of second place in the Foothill League.

Hart beat West Ranch 3-2 in a five-set thriller to close the first half of league play.

“They’re ready,” Sparks said of his players.

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