The Marin Catholic High girls volleyball team might be peaking at just the right time.
After coming within a set of upsetting top-seeded Foothill for the North Coast Section Division I title last week, the Wildcats almost played their way into the NorCal Open Division, missing out by a single place. Instead, the Wildcats took the top seed in the NorCal D-I playoffs and began their run with a 25-22, 25-22, 13-25, 25-13 home win against No. 16 Granite Bay on Tuesday night.
“When we lost to Foothill that definitely hurt because we were so close but they’re a really good team,” MC setter Rania Brody said. “We just knew we have to redeem ourselves this time for state.”
The Wildcats (23-8) host No. 8 Folsom (27-8) in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on Thursday night.
MC won the first two sets against Granite Bay fairly comfortably although both were competitive and close at the end.
— Ian Ross (@IRossMIJ) November 8, 2023
The Wildcats made a slew of errors early in the third set, quickly losing contact with the Grizzlies and letting them back into the match.
“We mixed up our lineup a little bit and we had to play out of rotation for ourselves,” MC assistant coach Marc Evans said. “I think it just finally got to the point where the other team started to play up, realizing they were down 2-0, and we thought we got comfortable in the position.”
MC’s lineup shifted because the Wildcats were missing starting outside hitter Grace Basso, who sustained a concussion in the section final against Foothill on Saturday. MC’s Mia Clayton played the first three sets as an outside hitter before being moved back to her usual middle blocker position in the fourth set.
“We work a lot better when I’m in the middle and I think it was just a comfort thing and that’s where my confidence comes from,” Clayton said.
Granite Bay opened the fourth set with an ace and almost went in front 2-0 with another ace but MC libero Savannah Ellison got low to prevent the ball from hitting the court. Later in that same rally, Granite Bay once again appeared to be on the verge of a 2-0 lead but Ellison came up with another spectacular dig to keep MC in the point.
Chloe Allcroft ended up winning the point on a kill to level the set at 1-1. The momentum shifted to MC definitively after that as the Wildcats won 17 of the next 20 points to put the Grizzlies away.
“Basically I just look at every single ball that comes over the net as mine, even though sometimes it can be going to the outside, sometimes it can be going to the middle or the setter,” Ellison said. “I just always like to cover that and try to get as many touches and try to get the ball up as much as I can. That’s kind of my mentality – everything is up until it’s not.”
Ellison probably made a half-dozen plays that turned points Granite Bay had all but won into points that MC ended up winning instead.
“Having those big defensive moments, for us that’s what turns it around,” Evans said. “It’s not usually a big kill or a big block. They help but they’re not what changes the momentum for our team. So when our defense steps up like that, that’s big for us.”
MC players took turns stepping up during an extended run which effectively put the game to bed. Krystal Rose Huff won 12 consecutive points on her serve and later produced the match-winning kill. Clayton had two kills and two blocks in a five-point span to stretch MC’s lead from 8-4 to 13-4.
Clayton’s run was only broken up by the fourth of Brody’s five successful setter dumps. Izzy Adam also provided a flurry of kills as MC surged to an 18-4 lead. Allcroft had a kill and a block on back-to-back plays to give MC its first match point.
— Ian Ross (@IRossMIJ) November 8, 2023
“No one player is going to get us through any match,” Evans said. “It has to be multiple names at the end of the night. They all stepped up or came up big at the right moments for us.”
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