Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Madera Coyote boys volleyball team celebrates the program’s first-ever Valley Championship on Thurday. The Coyotes defeated Central in three sets to capture the Div. II title in Joe Flores Gym.
A perfect run through the Div. II Central Section playoffs culminated in the Madera Coyote boys volleyball team’s first Valley Championship after defeating third-seeded Central-Fresno in the title game.
“Finally, we can get this program known,” said senior Matthew Brunner. “Not a lot of people, I feel, care for this sport.”
“We’re making history and that’s what we planned to do,” said senior Devonte Orlando.
Madera head coach Rhonda Jefferson got inspired performances from her frontline players — Brian Garcia, Orlando, Brunner and Tyler Mallonee. The quartet combined for 29 of the team’s 32 kills and and eight of the team’s 16 blocks.
“They did phenomenal,” Jefferson said. “I sent them a quote that morning about teamwork and championships. They really took it to heart.”
The top-seeded Coyotes battled though to win the first set 25-19 and cruised to a 25-17 victory in the second set. They closed the match scoring the final three points for a 25-22 victory Thursday evening.
“It was hard to get a read of if they were tipping or hitting,” Jefferson said after the first set. “When we started reading, we started reacting quicker and got a jump on what they were going to do. Our blocking had less ground to cover.”
After Central jumped out to the early lead, Hunter Brown served up three straight points to take a 6-5 lead.
The two teams exchanged nine straight side outs before the Coyotes scored on a Central out of bounds hit for a 12-11 lead. Brown served up another point to take a two-point lead, but the Grizzlies tied the set at 14, then 15, 16 and 17.
Garcia put down a side out kill and Seth Valencia served up three straight points. Garcia combined with Brown on a block and Orlando put down a kill for a 21-17 lead.
Central got the side out to cut the lead to two, but Garcia put down a side out kill.
With Garcia serving, Orlando put down a kill and two Central errors led to two Coyote points and a 25-19 victory.
“We had that first game jitters,” Brunner said. “Once the first game was over, all the jitters were over and we took off.”
“It was really the first game jitters,” Orlando said. “After that, we got together and meshed as a team. We bounced back to win the next two. We realized our defense needed to step up because we were weak in that.”
Central took the early lead in the first set, but Garcia stopped the run with a side out kill and served up three straight points. Orlando ended a long rally with a kill. Valencia recorded a kill sending back a kill that found the floor. Orlando then stuffed a Central attack for a 6-4 lead.
After a trade in side outs, Brunner put down a kill and Orlando served up two more points for a 10-6 lead.
Brunner put down a dump kill and then Garcia combined with Ali Escheik for a dual block and put down a kill for a five-point lead.
Two Tyler Mallonee side out kills led to a Brown solo block and an Orlando kill to open a seven-point lead.
After a Central service error, Brunner put down a kill and Orlando and Brown combined for a dual block for a 20-11 lead.
Central scored five of the next six points to cut Madera’s lead to five after back-to-back aces.
Orlando stopped the run with a kill and served up two more points to get to set point.
After a Central side out, Mallonee and Escheik combined on a dual block for a 25-17 second set victory.
“I told them to keep your composure and the nerves should be gone,” Jefferson said. “Now was the time to play Coyote ball.”
The Grizzlies took the early 7-3 lead in the third set. Mallonee put down a kill for side out. An Escheik kill and dual block with Garcia tied the set at seven.
A Central service error led to a four-point Coyote run, led by Garcia, who had three blocks and four kills in the third set. He had a dual block with Brown, a left-handed solo block and a kill for a 12-8 lead.
Central battled back to cut the lead to one before a side out. Garcia served up two more points for a 16-12 lead. Once again, Central cut the lead down to two before a service error. Brunner’s kill opened a 19-15 lead.
However, the Grizzlies scored three more points to cut Madera’s lead to one. The Coyotes got kills from Brunner and Garcia for a 21-18 lead, but the Grizzlies tied the set at 21 and 22.
Garcia put down a kill to give Madera a 23-22 lead. Valencia went back to serve and got an ace to get to match point. The Grizzlies hit the ball out of bounds and Madera took the set 25-22 and concluded the playoff run with nine straight set wins.
“It was awesome,” Jefferson said. “The boys played well. Game three, we were down most of that game. It was something about Seth. He had the magic touch and just pushed points for us.”