SONORA – Until proven otherwise, the Sonora High School Wildcats are still the team to beat in the Mother Lode League. Heading into Tuesday’s road clash with the Wildcats at Bud Castle Gym, Calaveras tried to be the one to begin pushing Sonora off the top of the league mountain.
Although Calaveras put up a good fight, Sonora once again proved why it has been league champions every year since 2014 in a 3-0 (21-25, 20-25, 22-25) victory over Calaveras.
“Those were highly contested games, we just made too many mistakes, especially on someone else's floor,” Calaveras head coach Mike Koepp said. “You have to limit the mistakes and make them beat you. I think they put some balls away and we put some balls away, but we had a lot of unforced hitting mistakes.”
The night couldn't have started any worse for Calaveras. Sonora jumped on Calaveras in the opening set with a 7-0 run. Because of the rough start, Calaveras played from behind the entire set.
“You could tell that we were a little tight,” Koepp said. “It’s not the way that you want to start, especially against a quality opponent because you always feel like you’re fighting uphill and that’s a tough situation to be in.”
Trailing early, Calaveras slowly climbed back into the set. With kills from junior Ava Saiers, junior Kyllie Remus and senior Muriel Strange, Calaveras cut Sonora’s lead to 23-19. Following a Sonora hit out of bounds and a block for a point by newly called-up sophomore Karah Auld, Calaveras only trailed by two. But the first set ended 25-21 in favor of the Wildcats.
Calaveras began the second set with an ace from Saiers, back-to-back kills from Strange and a kill from Remus and mixed with Sonora miscues, led 5-2. Down by three, the Wildcats went on an 8-2 run, which didn’t end until Auld recorded a well-timed block for a Calaveras point.
“She’s got some length and blocking is definitely her strength and she’s going to come along as a hitter,” Koepp said of Auld. “Truly, she’s playing out of position. She’s really an outside hitter, but we felt like we needed her where she was and I thought she did pretty well. She had a presence at the net and she belongs where she is. Bringing her up was something we were thinking even way back to tryouts. We needed a shot in the arm and she did a good job.”
Trailing 15-10, Calaveras went on a 7-2 run and tied the set at 17-17. Unfortunately, things changed for Calaveras when trailing 20-18 when junior Jenna Brotherton left the floor with an injury and was unable to return. Following the injury, Calaveras got outscored 5-2 and Sonora took the second set 25-20.
“I internalize it and take it as, we need to fight harder now and make up for what we lost,” Saiers said about playing without an injured Brotherton.
Like the opening set, Sonora started hot in the third set. Before Calaveras realized what was going on, the Wildcats led 10-2. With kills from Anna Allain, junior Alyssa Wyllie, Samantha Gleason, an ace from Keelie Koepp, a block from Auld and some Sonora mistakes, Calaveras tied the third set 20-20. Following a kill from Allain, Calaveras had a one-point lead, but that wouldn't grow any further and Sonora took the final set 25-22.
“We continued to fight, even when we did get down,” Mike Koepp said. “We just gave up too many big runs. We’ll fix those things and we’ll get better as we go. You could tell that they (Sonora) understand that we are quality competition with the excitement they had even beating us 3-0.”
Koepp finished with 16 digs and two aces; Saiers had five assists and two kills; Remus and Allain each recorded six kills; and Auld had four blocks and one kill.
“Sonora is a good team and I think we’re a good team,” Mike Koepp said. “When you take on a program that has had the mystique like Sonora, you are fighting that, just as much as you are fighting the team across the court. You have to believe that you are going to beat those types of teams, not just compete with them.”
Calaveras (3-5, 1-1 MLL) will take on the Summerville Bears at 6 p.m., Thursday in Tuolumne.