Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Madera South Stallions boys volleyball team gather after winning the program’s first ever Central Section championship by defeating the Sunnyside Wildcats in three sets to win the Div. II title.
After two grueling sets that saw both team putting balls down, the final point of the night was just a simple ball falling on the floor between two Sunnyside-Fresno players to give the Madera South Stallions boys volleyball team its first Central Section Championship in the program’s history.
The Stallions, seeded No. 1 in Div. II, swept the second-seeded Wildcats in the second-ever Central Section championship game/match held on the Madera South campus.
Playing before a packed house that saw all the bleachers pulled out, the Stallions held off the Wildcats 25-22 in the first set and came back from three set points to win the second set 29-27 before drubbing the Wildcats in the third set 25-17.
“The atmosphere was really good,” head coach Steve Guglielmana said. “We got a lot of fan support. It means a lot for Madera south to get the plaque. We get to put another banner up in the gym, so I’m happy about that.”
“It’s been a high school dream of mine to win a Valley Championship and to be able to call myself a Valley Champion in amazing,” junior Sebastian Moreno said.
It took a little while longer than the Stallions thought to put away the pesky Wildcats.
“It’s amazing to get this,” senior Christian Sylvia said. “I was on the team two years ago and they were an amazing team. Doing it this year, we did something the best teams couldn’t do. It feels amazing.”
The Stallions put down 49 kills in the sweep and Sylvia led the team with 24 of them, almost half. Ruben Jaimez added nine kills and Riley Maciel added six more.
“I’m glad to get it done with a group who put in the work to truly deserve the moment,” coach Nate Perez said. “This has been a long time coming for them. They’ve been putting in the work for years. Last year, we weren’t too successful. It may have looked like it, but we were grinding as hard as we could to be successful. Years of work with this group reaped dividends tonight. It was great to see.”
The first set saw back-and-forth action by equally matched teams. Madera South pulled out a 25-22 victory, but scored just five points with serve.
Despite two side out kills from Sylvia, the Wildcats took a 4-2 lead after a block. The two teams exchanged 17 straight side outs with the Wildcats holding 12-11 lead.
In the run, Sylvia had three side out kills while Jared Guglielmana and Maciel had two each.
Joey Chavez stopped the run by serving up a point when Sunnyside hit in to the net. Sylvia then put down two straight side outs to give the Stallions a 14-13 lead.
Then, the teams exchanged nine straight side outs with the teams tied at 19. In the run, Sylvia, Adrian Alvarez and Maciel put down side out kills and Guglielmana recorded a solo block.
Jaimez put down a kill for a 20-19 lead before a Sunnyside side out. Jaimez put down a side out kill and then served up two straight points.
Sylvia combined with Moreno for a dual block. Then, Sylvia put down a tip kill for a 23-20 lead.
Sunnyside got the side out, but was called for a back row attack to give the Stallions set point leading 24-21. Madera South hit out of bounds for a Sunnyside side out. However, Sylvia dunked the ball over the net for set point and a 25-22 win.
The Stallions looked to take control in the second set. Sylvia served up four straight points after four Sunnyside errors. Jaimez put down two straight side out kills. Chavez served up two more points, including a dual block from Sylvia and Jaimez for a 10-6 lead.
Sylvia put down a side out kill and Jaimez served up a point for a 12-7 lead. Guglielmana put down a side out kill for a 15-11 lead.
The Wildcats used a four-point run to tie the set at 17. The two teams were tied at 18, 10, 20, and 21 before the Wildcats got a kill off a block.
After a Madera South time out, Sunnyside hit out of bounds and Alvarez served up an ace to tie the set at 23.
The Wildcats put down a kill for set point, leading 24-23. Maciel put down a side out kill, but Sunnyside got the side out back. Jaimez put down a side out kill to tie the set at 25 and Sylvia put down a tip kill to tie the set at 26 on the third set point.
Moreno put down a dump kill to give the Stallions a 27-26 lead and their first set point. After a Wildcats’ side out, Sylvia put down another tip kill to get the serve back.
Moreno put down another dump kill for the 29-27 victory and the turning point in the match.
“I knew we had it when we brought it back from the second set,” Sylvia said. “It was a heartbreaker when they had the lead and we brought it back to win. We just wanted that game. We wanted every set. We didn’t want to lose. We wanted the valley in a sweep.”
“Sunnyside adjusted to what we were doing in the first set really well,” Perez said. “It put us in a predicament. I think the level of competition and quality of tournaments we’ve been to this year kind of prepared us to have to crawl back and dig out those extra points against a good team. They were a good team.”
“We were spread with the offense,” Moreno said about his dumps. “When I go up, they never saw it coming. After spreading the ball around, they never expected it. We got them on their heels. When I dumped the ball over, it went straight down. I did my best to help us keep going. I didn’t want it to stop.”
The Stallions returned to normal in the third set. Two Sylvia kills and an Alvarez dump kill led to a 4-1 lead.
Maciel put a kill off the head of a Sunnyside defender and Jaimez recorded a block for a 7-3 lead. Jaimez and Sylvia put down side out kills and Sylvia ended a wild rally with another kill for a 10-5 lead.
Moreno recorded another dump kill and Sylvia put down a kill off an Alvarez solo block. Back-to-back kills and an ace from Sylvia gave the Stallions a 15-7 lead.
After a Sunnyside missed serve, Alvarez served up two more points. Jose Villafan served up two more points with the Stallions leading 19-9.
The two teams exchanged seven side outs with the Stallions taking a 23-15 lead. Sylvia put down three side out kills in the run. Sylvia served up a point when Sunnyside hit out of bounds to get to set point, 24-15.
Sunnyside got a kill for the side out and Madera South was called in the net to cut the lead to 24-17. After a rally on match point, the ball found its way to the Sunnyside side of the floor for the final point of the match and set off a celebration.
“The third set was when they finally got into their own groove and relax,” Guglielmana said. “These kids chose to do the work. They put in work after practice and in the weight room. Not everybody made it to this point. Some washed out, but these guys stayed with it and it paid off.”
“We’re not done yet, we have state,” Sylvia said.