Hitters' play sends Monarchs back to Valley finals
It’s often said that volleyball is a game of emotion.
Well, No. 6 Ridgeview had the clear edge in that department.
The road team made itself at home in Exeter’s gym, pasting several signs to the walls, being backed by an unrelentingly loud cheer squad and celebrating joyously after every point.
“They had a whole bunch of cheerleaders that were totally in our faces,” Exeter junior outside hitter Tiffany Diaz said. “It was kind of nerve-racking; we had to zone them out.”
While the Wolf Pack (12-12) won the emotional battle, the business-like No. 2 Monarchs (24-7) had too much talent and prevailed, 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-14, 25-21), in the Division III semifinals, Tuesday night.
Ridgeview kept things interesting, but there were just too many Monarch weapons to contain. Four Exeter hitters — Jessica Runyon (11), Amanda Monge (10), Diaz (10) and Ashtyn Atkinson (10) — smacked double-digit kills.
Exeter coach Alana Montgomery felt her hitters did their job, but that didn’t mask an unusually high number of hitting and serving errors.
“I’m really glad that we at least made it to our seed so that’s great,” Montgomery said. “I thought we dominated as far as hitters went but we made so many errors it just didn’t matter.”
Monarch errors helped springboard the Wolf Pack to their game-two win, but they were able to recover and win game three convincingly.
Behind a Tori Davis ace, Exeter jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never trailed in the third game. Atkinson put the exclamation point on that victory by scoring the final four points — off three kills and a block — to give the Monarchs an 11-point victory.
Exeter, on three occasions in game four, simply let the ball drop after miscommunications and kept Ridgeview in it, leading 19-16 late in the game. Erica Rito dropped a tip directly off Monge’s eye and following the third communication lapse, the Wolf Pack were re-energized and mobbing each other after every point.
“They’re a tough little team, I’m really impressed by them,” Montgomery said. “For as few hitters as they had, I thought they did an outstanding job. They just kept digging up our balls and they didn’t make a lot of errors. They were just a tough all-around team. But it’s the semifinals so it should be that way.”
Monge would get revenge quickly, scoring three of the next four Monarch points. The 6-foot junior middle blocker got a running tip to fall, then landed a kill to put Exeter up six. Her own personal exclamation point came on the next point when her initial kill attempt was returned by a sliding Kacey Markarian but the return flew back to Monge, who hammered another shot to the ground, giving Exeter a 23-18 lead.
Caitlin Marinos ended the match with a kill that nicked Ana Barba and rolled out of bounds.
Atkinson finished with 23 digs while Davis equaled that total in assists while getting three aces as well. Runyon tallied a team-high five blocks, including three in the first game.
Exeter, sparked by two Runyon stops, jumped out to a 7-0 lead in game one, but was reeled in by the scrappy Wolf Pack, who went on a 9-2 run to tie it.
The Monarchs now earn a Valley-title-game rematch with Tehachapi (28-4, 10-0 SSL), which beat No. 4 Golden Valley 3-1, Tuesday night. Only this time, the seeds are reversed, as Exeter will have to win this title on the road.
The Monarchs dispatched the Warriors 3-0 last year en route to their fifth Valley championship in the past seven seasons. Montgomery said they won’t be able to get a sixth in eight years without a significant improvement on their semifinal showing.
“(We won’t win) if we play the way we did tonight,” she said.
The D-III championship game is at 7 p.m., Thursday, at Tehachapi High.