Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Sadie Vasquez reaches up for a block against Washington Union during the Madera Invitational on Saturday.
With the league seasons coming in the next week, the Madera, Madera South and Liberty girls volleyball teams used this weekend’s Madera Invitational as a gauge to see how they match up.
While all three schools advanced to the gold bracket championships, all three schools were eliminated within the sweet 16.
Madera and Liberty won play-in matches to head into bracket play. However, despite a 25-10 first set win over Porterville, the Stallions lost the next two sets and couldn’t advance into the bracket.
“We were just mentally not ready to go for the tournament,” head coach Travis McEowen said. “I feel like that’s been the common theme this season, their heads aren’t really in it. The mental mistakes really took us out of place.”
Liberty batted tough against County Metro Athletic Conference’s Bullard-Fresno Knights, a
Div. 1 team, before losing in straight sets.
“Our team is a team of competitors,” said first-year head coach Grant Clark. “Whenever we play good teams, we see the most come out of them. We really thrive in those positions. We were tired, but they pushed through and battled through the end.”
Just four days after sweeping Sierra-Tollhouse in Joe Flores Gym, the Coyotes lost in two sets to the Chieftains at the tournament.
“They (Sierra) played much better today than they did Tuesday,” Madera head coach Meghan Haas said. “We have not had a good day. We haven’t had a good couple of weeks in terms of team chemistry and being able to play together and everybody doing their job. It’s six individuals on the court trying to play a game that involves a lot more than that.”
Madera needed three sets to defeat Hanford West in the first round of the gold bracket.
However, there wasn’t much rest and the Coyotes faced the Chieftains, who received a first round bye.
After dropping the first set, the Coyotes found themselves trailing by three for most of the set. Sierra eventually opened the lead to five, 16-11.
The Coyotes tried to battle back behind the arm of Isabella Saucedo. She put down a side out kill and served up two aces to cut the lead to two.
However, Sierra scored five straight points to open a seven-point lead. The two teams traded side outs before a Saucedo kill cut the lead to four.
Sierra put down a kill to get to match point, leading by five. The Coyotes battled back. They got the side out and Saucedo put down a pair of kills to cut the lead to two. However, Sierra ended the match with a side out for a 25-22 win.
“Serve receive has been really rough,” Haas said. “We haven’t been good in every area in one match. Every match, there’s something that has fallen away. We haven’t been able to piece it all together, yet. We have inexperience at setter. They are inexperienced at the game at this level and what we’re asking them to do, which is both good and bad. We’re trying to push them as much as we can.”
The Coyotes have a pair of home games this week to get back to where they were as last year’s County/Metro Athletic Conference champions. They hosted Yosemite-Oakhurst on Tuesday and battle Liberty on Thursday.
“We need to improve on the little things,” Haas said. “Everybody has to do their job. We got caught so many times with a free ball falling in front of somebody. It’s called a free ball for a reason. It’s supposed to be an easy pass. We’re not flowing. We need to work a lot on defense and work from one play to the next.”
Madera South Stallions
After starting off the tournament 3-0 on Friday, Madera South’s McEowen was hoping for a smooth run at the tournament title.
An 0-2 start Saturday morning sent the Stallions into a unfavorable seed in the first round of the gold bracket.
“It was an interesting weekend,” McEowen said. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and start over.”
However, it wasn’t meant to be at the hands of Porterville. The Panthers came back from a 15-point beating in first set to defeat the Stallions in the next two sets to eliminate the Stallions.
“We need to play more consistent,” McEowen said. “We need to have the mentality to go out there and try to win a game. The teams we lost to dug a lot of balls and kept them in play. They worked harder than we did. They deserved to beat us.”
The Stallions head back to the gym with no matches this week before the start of CMAC play.
“They know they have to work hard,” McEowen said. “They work hard. It’s the mental game. What to do when the pressure is on? They know they are good, they have standards, but they haven’t been on this side of winning.”
For new head coach Clark, it was just a matter of seeing how much more he could get out of his players.
Unfortunately after getting a revenge victory over Minarets, they faced Div. I Bullard in the first round of bracket play.
“Minarets was another revenge game,” Clark said. “They beat us earlier in the season and all the girls wanted to do was play them again. We were lucky enough to be seeded with them and they were ready. It’s a little rivalry we’ve had so it’s nice to beat Minarets.”
The Hawks opened the tournament with a victory over Chowchilla, which was an emotional lift, Clark said.
However, the Hawks couldn’t match up against the Knights and fell in straight sets. Despite the loss, Clark is excited about the upcoming season and knows he has a team that can challenge for the school’s first North Sequoia League title.
“I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know,” Clark said. “I saw more of the same. We’re a gritty team. We get along with each other, the girls love playing with each other and they sacrifice their body on the floor and they never stop.
“Our serve receive is a little slow. Our defensive rotation isn’t the greatest. There’s some stuff we need to clean up. Headed into league, we’re excited. It’s a tough league, but we’ve seen most of the team. We want to bring home the first league championship and that’s our goal.”