Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Brianna Guerrero rises up or a kill during a two-set sweep over Tulare Western at the Madera South Classic gold division quarterfinals match.
Both the Madera and Liberty girls volleyball teams were one win away from playing for a gold and silver division championship at the Madera South Volleyball Classic on Saturday.
The Hawks lost to the Minarets Mustangs in three sets in the Silver division semifinals. Meanwhile, the Coyotes lost to the Redwood-Visalia Rangers in the gold division semifinals. The Coyotes and Rangers also met Tuesday in a non-league match in Joe Flores Gym.
The Stallions, who still may be feeling a little bit of rust from last year’s Valley Championship run, played well enough to advance into the gold division, but lost its first two game sin bracket play.
“We did a lot of really good thing,” Stallions head coach Travis McEowen said. “We made some progress. We had some good growth areas in a lot of places where we were lacking in the last week. “We got a lot of playing time. From where we were a week ago, it was a lot of improvement. We should have done a lot better than we did this weekend. We definitely underachieved the goals we had. We set our goals high and fell short in a lot of matches.”
Liberty head coach Grant Clark saw his team grow in leaps and bounds in the Classic.
“We’ve come a long way in this tournament, alone,” he said. “We had some players in different spots learn different rotation. We were pumped to play Minarets again. We played really well. We just couldn’t pull it out. We’ve been playing really scrappy defense. We had rallies that lasted forever. We can play defense with most any team. We’re still learning and growing.”
Clark’s team is still looking for another consistent hitter other than Lucia Somilleda. He has the middle blockers of Sarah Shevenell and Audrina Vasquez to go to, but is still looking for a No. 2 hitter.
“We’re still looking for a hammer on the outside,” Clark said. “Our outsides are young, except for Lucia. I thought Lucia had a phenomenal tournament all-around. She did not miss any points in the tournament. If we have someone that steps up that fills in that second spot behind Lucia, we’ll continue to progress even more. We have couple of options, but we’re young.”
Madera advanced into the quarterfinals of the gold bracket with a two-set sweep over Tulare Western. In the first set, Madera was leading by 10, but Tulare Western battled back to take a 22-20 lead.
Madera tied the set at 23 and 24 before Isabella Saucedo took over. Her tip kill gave the Coyotes set point and her kill gave her team the win.
In the second set, Saucedo scored six of the first seven points for a 7-3 Coyotes lead. She had four kills, a block and an ace. Two more Saucedo aces led to an 11-3 lead.
Aces from Sophia Perez and Jade Davie and side out kills from Kaci Gonzales, Miabella Rios and Saucedo led to a 21-9 lead. Two more Saucedo kills gave the Coyotes a 23-10 lead. After a side out, a Saucedo kill and a Brianna Guerrero kill sent Madera into the semifinals with a 25-11 win.
“Yesterday, we took care of what we needed to take care of, but the competition wasn’t as good as I would have liked,” head coach Meghan Haas said. “Today, the matches were good. Against Redwood, we played great. It was a good learning experience. It was good for the girls to see we can be successful against a team like that.”
The Coyotes battled tough with a Redwood team they would see a few days later. Although Redwood won both sets, the margin of victory was just seven points.
Saucedo recorded 18 kills in the two sets. Guerrero stepped into the No. 2 hitter role and put down nine kills.
“This was Brianna’s best match of the season,” Haas said. “We’re working. We have a lot of work to do. All of our hitters worked well together.”
In the first set, the Rangers jumped out to a 6-2 lead and then extended the lead to 10-5. The Coyotes battled back with three kills from Guerrero to cut the lead to two.
Saucedo put down a tip kill for a side out and then added two more kills in a four-point run for a 16-14 lead. Redwood came back with a four-point run to reclaim the lead.
Back-to-back kills from Saucedo tied the score at 18. The two teams were tied at 19, 20 and 21 before Redwood scored three straight points to get to set point.
Saucedo put down back-to-back kills to cut the lead to one, but a Coyotes’ missed serve gave the Rangers a 25-23 set one win.
In the second set, Redwood, again, jumped out to the early lead. However, Kaci Gonzalez established herself as a quality defender with four straight digs on tough attacks on one rally.
“Our defense came up with a ton of digs,” Haas said. “We haven’t been blocking all season, but we threw up a block. They did a good job of what we were trying to do. They were annihilating balls and we were getting the balls up. As a hitter, you get frustrated. It was good to see.”
Redwood jumped to a three-point lead before a Guerrero kill and a Mariyah Alvarez ace cut the lead to one. Redwood scored three straight points for a four-point lead.
The Rangers kept the lead until Madera made a run with two Saucedo kills and a Guerrero kill to cut the lead to one. Another Guerrero side out kill kept Madera in striking distance.
After three straight side outs, the Coyotes tried to battle back with side out kills from Guerrero and Saucedo, but Redwood still led 22-20.
The Rangers got the side out and served up two aces to end the match with a 25-20 victory.