Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Coyote supporters engulf the Madera Coyote boys volleyball team after a five-set victory over Hoover to win the program’s second straight Div. II Valley Championship on Friday.
FRESNO — With the ball in the air, all Madera Coyote senior middle blocker Ali Escheik could see was a wide-open court. He rose up, pulled his right arm back and let fly.
With no blockers coming from the Hoover side, Escheik ended Friday’s marathon match with the game-ending kill to give the Coyotes their second straight Div. II Valley Championship.
The second seeded Coyotes lost the first two sets 27-25 and 26-24 before bouncing back to win the final three sets, culminating in Escheik’s kill, against top seeded Hoover inside a raucous Hoover gymnasium.
“It seemed like an everyday, routine hit to me,” Escheik said. “We didn’t give up until the final play.”
“I don’t know what was going on with the guys after the second set,” head coach Rhonda Jefferson said. “I don’t know if it was nerves. We’ve been here before and it took three games to get going and playing our game. We had some calls that didn’t go our way. I had a vision when I woke up that we were going five and we dropped the first two.”
“It was just satisfaction and fulfillment,” senior Brian Garcia said. “We all do things for fulfillment. I felt so satisfied and exhausted at the same time.”
Coyote standout and UC Irvine recruit Garcia put down a game-high 21 kills with nine in the pivotal fourth set. Marcos Ramos added 19 kills, including four in the final set. Hunter Brown had nine kills and Alex Olvera-Gill recorded six kills in the first three sets.
“We knew we would win game five,” Jefferson said. “Hoover got tired and they play eight players. We’re used to five games. They aren’t. They beat everyone in their league in three. I knew if we would get to five, we were going to get that match. We subbed and played almost everybody.”
The Coyotes received the No. 1 seed in the Div. III state playoffs and hosted Kipp King High School out of San Lorenzo in Joe Flores Gym on Tuesday.
The Coyotes had trouble at the beginning of the match and it lingered throughout. On attacks, Madera hit the ball out of bounds 22 times, including 19 in the first four sets. They also committed 11 service errors, including five in a set two loss.
“Hoover’s defense is phenomenal,” Jefferson said. “They have to have the best defense in California. I though we got some balls down but they got them up.”
The Coyotes got two side out kills from Ramos and a kill from Garcia for a 7-6 lead in the first set. Hoover tied the set and took the lead. Chandler Fowler recorded a kill on a save to tie the set at eight.
Madera hit out of bounds and Hoover recorded an ace to take a 15-12 lead. A missed serve and a Garcia kill off a Valencia dig while saving a ball cut the lead to two.
However, another Madera hit out of bounds gave the Patriots a 19-15 lead. Hoover returned the favor with a hit out of bounds and the Coyotes took advantage.
Garcia served up an ace in a four point run, Fowler recorded a solo block to give the Coyotes a 20-19 lead before Hoover got the side out to tie the set.
Fowler recorded a side out kill and served an ace for a 22-20 lead. After a side out, Olvera-Gill put down a kill for a 23-21 lead. However, Hoover tied the set with a side out and an ace.
A dual block by Escheik and Ramos gave Madera set point, 24-23. Hoover put down a kill and an ace to get set point, 25-24. Garcia put down a kill to tie the set, but Madera was called in the net for side out and Hoover put down the final point for a 27-25 win.
In the second set, the Patriots took advantage of Madera mistakes to open a 6-4 lead. A Ramos side out kill and an Escheik and Ramos dual block tied the set at six.
A Hoover side out led to a four-point Coyote run, highlighted by a Garcia kill, for an 11-8 lead. After a Hoover side out, Garcia put down three straight kills for a 14-9 Coyote lead.
The Coyotes seemed to be cruising when Garcia put down a kill for a 16-10 lead. Hoover kept battling back and two Madera hits out of bounds cut the lead to three.
Ramos stopped the momentum with a kill and Fowler served up an ace for a 19-14 lead. Hoover came back with three straight points to cut the lead to one and tied the score at 19 after an ace.
Olvera-Gill put down a kill and Hoover hit out of bounds for a two-point Coyote lead. Despite a missed serve, Garcia got the side out and Hoover hit out of bounds for a 23-20 lead.
Another missed serve gave the ball back to Hoover, but they hit out of bounds for a Coyote set point, 24-21.
Hoover put down a kill to cut the lead to two. They added a kill and a solo block to tie the set at 24. The Patriots pushed two more points on a double contact violation and a Coyote hit out of bounds for a 26-24 victory.
Three early Ramos kills led to a 6-4 lead in the third set. A Garcia kill and ace opened a five-point lead, but Hoover scored three straight points to cut the lead to two.
The Patriots battled back twice to tie the set at 13 and 16. A Garcia kill gave the Coyotes a 19-16 lead before a Hoover ace. The teams exchanged eight straight side outs with Escheik, Brown, Ramos and Olvera-Gill recording side out kills for a 23-22 lead.
Hoover tied the set at 23 with a block on a Coyote attack. After a trade in side outs, Hoover got to set point, 25-24, after Madera was called in the net. Escheik put down a kill to tie the set at 25.
Hoover hit out of bounds and Garcia forced a fourth set with a kill for a 27-25 win.
“I just wanted to reset,” said Garcia, who had to let frustrations go outside the gym before the third set. “The two sets were kind of frustrating. I wanted to go outside and let that all go. The last two sets, I just wanted to relax and let everybody play.”
In the fourth set, the Coyotes found themselves trailing 9-4, their biggest deficit of the match. Garcia put down three straight kills with Hernandez serving. Fowler and Escheik combined on a dual block, Hernandez served up an ace, Hoover hit out of bounds and Garcia put down another kill for a seven-point run and an 11-9 lead.
Two Madera hits out of bounds led to a 15-12 Hoover lead. A Garcia side out kill and a Ramos kill cut the lead to one. Ramos put down a side out kill and Clemente Flores combined with Brown on a dual block to tie the set at 16.
The two teams battled to tie the score at 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22. Garcia put down three kills in the stretch.
After Brown’s side out kill tied the set at 22, Garcia served the next three points. Hoover was called for a under-the-net violation, Ramos put down a kill for set point and Fowler’s solo block forced a deciding fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Coyotes jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but two Madera errors gave the Patriots a 6-5 lead.
A Fowler kill gave the Coyotes control of the match with an 8-7 lead. The two teams exchanged eight straight side outs. Fowler, Brown and Ramos recorded side out kills.
With Brown serving, Ramos put down a kill. Hoover hit out of bounds to give Coyotes match point, 14-11. Hoover got a kill to set up Escheik’s kill for a 15-12 win and a second straight Coyote Valley Championship.