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Prowling to playoffs

Wildcats clinch spot in postseason

Posted: October 28, 2008 9:28 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Canyon's Courtney Longshore strikes the ball as West Ranch's Sophie Burns, left, and Bree Braucher, defend.

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There is a large yellow sign in the Canyon High gymnasium that reads, "Home of the Cowboys."

That was not the case Tuesday as the visiting West Ranch volleyball squad played like the home team, landing 16 aces and overcoming a somewhat sluggish start to beat the Cowboys, 25-15, 25-5, 25-13.

With a 6-1 record in the Foothill League (10-5 overall), the Wildcats clinched a berth in the CIF-SS Division I-A Girls Volleyball Tournament. They are currently in second place in league behind Valencia (7-0) and ahead of Saugus (4-3).

"We started off slow, picked it up and never looked back," said West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks. "Our serving went extremely well. We wanted to be aggressive, just go out there and play well."

The first game got as close as 16-11 Wildcats. But West Ranch's hitters turned it on to march toward a decisive one-hour win.

WRHS outside hitter-server Sophie Burns hit a match-high six kills. Megan Futch and Isabelle Howell both had five.

From the 1970s to the ‘90s, Canyon was a dominant girls volleyball program. The Cowboys won four league championships in the 1970s. They chalked up eight more in the 1980s and an additional four in the 1990s, with the last one coming in 1997.

It has been a tough season for Canyon (0-7, 4-10), however, which finished second last year.

"Basically we couldn't pass today," said Cowboys head coach Brian Ingino. "There's nothing you can do when that happens. We had no attack."

Canyon's players were hesitant on defense, miscommunicated on several passing attempts and could not keep up with the Wildcats' constant hitting.

The Cowboys' season ends with a match Thursday at Valencia, Tuesday at home against Hart and Nov. 6 at Golden Valley.

"We need to change our attitude," Ingino said. "We need to change how we prepare for matches. We've got to be more confident. We're coming out timid."

West Ranch effectively put the match away in the second game, jumping out to a 9-0 lead on four aces served by Lauren Shepard, who finished the match with seven.

"Usually we missed more serves than we did tonight," Shepard said. "I think during the first game, we started out a little slow. In the second game we pretty much dominated, and in the third we finished strong."

That hot start ballooned to a 17-3 lead, with Canyon struggling to get the ball over the net at times.

The Cowboys played better in the third, and trailed just 16-9 on Wildcat hitting errors. Hitters like Krista Prudencio, who finished with three kills, and Courtney Longshore found the middle of the defense. Liz Renfrow came up with eight assists.

"We need to work together more, talk it up," Prudencio said. "We need to be more aggressive."
Canyon won the junior varsity match in three games, while West Ranch won the freshman match in two.

Valencia 3, Saugus 2
Valencia fought off game point in both the third and fourth contests Tuesday in an epic 23-25, 25-20, 27-25, 29-27 Foothill League win over Saugus.

The Vikings stayed perfect in league play at 7-0 (10-7 overall), but it was anything but easy in the Centurions' gymnasium.

"It came down to really good execution and playing gutsy ball in the clutch," said Valencia head coach Ray Sanchez.

Saugus led 24-22 in the third game and 24-20 in the fourth, but could not lock either one down.

With the Vikings leading 28-27 in the fourth, Heidi Brown put away a block on match point. Right before Brown's huge stuff, Valencia put another big block with the score tied at 27.

"Each of these games in this match was ridiculously close," Sanchez said. "They gave us everything we could handle."

Katie Hank was the best player on the floor Tuesday, finishing with 16 kills and five aces. Shelby LeDuff hit 13 kills. Christina Worth had 36 assists and two blocks. Brown put down three blocks.

"It would've been easy for the girls to say, ‘OK, we're down 24-20. Let's go to a fifth game'" Sanchez said. "But in their gym, with that kind of momentum, you really don't want it to come down to that. They were really intent on trying to finish it right then and there."

Saugus (4-3, 18-4) had its fair share of heroes in the losing effort. Outside hitter Katie Estes up with 16 kills and 10 digs and five aces, while Jaclyn Clark put down 10 kills and had 16 digs. The Centurions had eight aces.

Alyssa Terwall chalked up 36 assists and 14 digs.

Taylor Schubert and Rachel Kempler both had six blocks.

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