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Sports - December 26, 2008

Battling their way to No. 1

What a ride it was for SRVHS women's volleyball

by Lucille Vandersloot

The Lady Wolves served, spiked and battled their way through the EBAL volleyball season and went on to win the North Coast Section championship this year, the first NCS title since 2003 and only the third title in San Ramon Valley history.

The San Ramon Valley High School women's volleyball team placed first in the competitive East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) with a record of 12 wins and two losses. The team included nine seniors: Sammi Buono (setter), Annie Begin and Amy Mulligan (outside hitters), Allison Cole (right side hitter), Brianna Vandersloot and Leah Foltz (middle blockers), Jenna Maestre (libero-defense), Ginny Kenyon (libero-defense), and Katie Conneely (middle hitter); juniors Lauren Van Fossen (setter) and Caitlin Sherwood (right side hitter/setter); and sophomores Victoria Acosta (outside hitter) and Sunee Washom (outside hitter).

The team was packed with strong players, including seniors who had played together throughout high school, but the Wolves did not have one "star" to attract others' attention. Instead they continually surprised their opponents with their depth. Coach Tom Bauhs and Assistant Coach Lindsey Hirzel didn't mind, though, that the team had been "flying under the radar." Last year's team, composed mainly of these players with the significant addition of then-senior Lauren Claybaugh, came in second to Amador Valley in the NCS CIF Finals.

But this year's season began slowly for the Wolves. The first league game was against a highly regarded Amador Valley team. An article in a newspaper just prior to the game misquoted the Amador coach as neglecting to mention the Wolves in his estimation of possible EBAL contenders; this got the Wolves all fired up, and they proceeded to play their best to date, crushing the Lady Dons, 3-0. Shortly afterward they beat Granada (then the hottest team in the league) in a closely contested match, winning 3-2.

It appeared that the Wolves had righted the ship and were about to realize their great potential. But reality struck and after tough losses to Cal High and Carondelet, the Wolves finished the first half of the EBAL season 5-2. Fortunately they were still tied for first place since no one had run away with the league.

Things changed dramatically during the ensuing Castro Valley Tournament in early October. By then the team had begun to gel and went on a roll. They narrowly lost the tournament championship to Miramonte in a third game but beat several good teams decisively, including Carondelet in a rematch.

The second half of EBAL started the next week and the Wolves were not to lose another game in league play. In an additional tournament at Northgate, the team reached the finals and came in second place to the host team.

Thanks to the intense direction of coaches Bauhs and Hirzel, the Wolves won EBAL. Assistant Varsity Coach Jan Crow, who is also JV head coach, contributed to the Wolves' positive outlook and intense energy. Winning the EBAL title gave the team an automatic berth in the NCS regional tournament and play began with San Ramon Valley as second seed.

Strong wins over Mission San Jose and Castro Valley propelled the Wolves into the championship game against Granada, whom they had beaten twice in league play. The championship match was a tense, well fought, largely even affair with the lead going back and forth. The Wolves pulled ahead in the pivotal fifth game with a strong start and won, coming away with the NCS Championship Title.

After winning NCS, one of 10 sections in the state California Interscholastic Federation, the team received the second seed in the Northern California State tournament. This NCS Finals game was played in the Monte Vista gym since SRVHS is currently without a facility, and the Mustangs gave gracious assistance on that momentous Saturday evening of Nov. 22.

Throughout the season, school spirit played a big role in the team's cohesiveness, with incredible support from "our amazing 7th Man Fans," who usually outnumbered the other teams' fans, even at away games. Four of the fans attended every single match, and typically 10 to 20 would stand throughout the games, faces and bodies painted green and gold, cheering loudly.

No. 1 fan Travis Selland wore a yellow cape and waved a large "SRV Volleyball" flag to lead the cheers. Player posters were displayed on the walls, spurring the Lady Wolves on to victory. Most of the season was played in the auxiliary gym, which at times made for crowded matches.

In addition the Lady Wolves had a lot of fun advertising their volleyball team during the school days. Each game day was a "dress-up" day, reminding the other students to come to the match that afternoon. The crazier the costumes, the better. The varsity girls dressed as tourists, cowboys and Indians, "black stealth," hippies, "savages," sleepyheads (in pj's) and, one of the favorites, as "nerds."

Decisively winning the competitive East Bay Athletic League and becoming NCS champions were goals for the team early on and its members should be proud. Speaking for all the parents and fans, thank you, team, for a terrific season and many wonderful memories. It's been a great ride!

* Overall season record: 32 wins, 11 losses

* EBAL record: 12 wins-2 losses

* All EBAL First Team: Sammi Buono, Brianna Vandersloot

* All EBAL Second Team: Annie Begin, Amy Mulligan

* All EBAL Honorable Mention: Allison Cole

* NCS Quarterfinals win over Mission San Jose: 3 games to 0

* NCS Semifinals win over Castro Valley: 3 games to 1

* NCS Championship win over Granada: 3 games to 2

* The first NCS Championship for San Ramon Valley since 2003 season

* The third NCS Championship ever for San Ramon Valley High School

* The Wolves are also NCS Distinguished Scholastic Award Winners.

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