Fullerton College, a team that was part of the CCCWVCA State Top 25 throughout the 2021 season at #21, didn't let a long drive to San Luis Obispo and a lower No. 17 seed get in the way of making it past the Southern California Women's Volleyball Regional Play-In Round on Saturday. The Hornets 4-set victory over No. 16-seed host Cuesta, 25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-14, was one of five Play-In Round matches played throughout the state, setting up the final Round 1 matchups for Tuesday.
Fullerton (16-12) and Cuesta shared the #25 ranking on the Final State Rankings (based on coach seedings) released on Friday, but it was the fifth-place Hornets that showed their pedigree including 5-set wins this year over #8-ranked and Orange Empire Conference champ Cypress and #20 Golden West. Fullerton also had gone five sets in losses to #7 San Diego Mesa, #11 Santa Barbara City, and #21 Grossmont.
Meanwhile, Cuesta was a surprise postseason choice (thanks to a set RPI formula to determine seedings) to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Cougars rode the wave of being in one of the state's toughest conferences--the Western State North Division, which featured tri-champions in SBCC, #12 Moorpark and #18 Ventura. The Cougars had no wins over South playoff teams (two over NorCal teams--Modesto and Monterey Peninsula) and won just one set in six losses to the big WSC trio.
Led by Whitney Thompson, a member of the "Cuesta Roofing Company" of hitters with 17 kills, and a season-high 41 assists by setter Kelsey Courtney, Cuesta played well in stretches v. Fullerton, winning the second set and trailed just 21-19 in the third set. But Fullerton, led by outside hitter Faith Webb, scored four of the last six points to win that game and then carried the momentum into a 20-9 lead in the fourth set to propel itself to the match win.
Webb scored 17 kills (hit a steady .304) and added 15 digs while fellow Hornet Hannah Wilmes contributed 13 kills and 13 digs. Fullerton will visit No. 1 seed Bakersfield on Tuesday, Nov. 23 in a Round 1 match.
No. 15 Canyons d. No. 18 Mt. San Jacinto, 3-2 (25-16, 22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-8): Ranked #24 in the state, College of the Canyons (second place in WSC South) had its hands full against the Inland Empire Athletic Conference champion Eagles before pulling out the Cougars' eighth straight victory. COC (14-10) was led by an impressive hitting nights by Caitlin Liebe, who landed 18 kills (hit .444), and Ariana Vargas doubling her previous high in kills with 16 with a scorching .560 attack clip. Unranked MSJC (17-6) more than earned respect in this match after a season where its best wins were against non-playoff qualifiers in Cerritos and El Camino and three of its losses were against non-qualifiers as well in Citrus (lost twice) and Imperial Valley. The Eagles went swing-for-swing with COC as Aleya Starnes played her best match of the year with 21 kills (hit .474) and Ruby Ruiz added 15 kills and 10 digs. In the fifth set, Canyons took an early lead at 5-2, including a pair of Liebe kills, and never looked back.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REGIONAL PLAY-IN ROUND
No. 14 De Anza d. No. 19 Marin, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23): None of the NorCal Play-In Round teams were part of the Final State Top 25, but the Mountain Lions (12-12), the third place team from Coast Conference South Division, held serve in sweeping College of Marin. A balanced offense was led by OH Adrianna Williams with nine kills and opposite Grace Brandau with seven kills. Brandau also led the defense with 12 digs and libero Ciarra Orsolinni made 11 digs. Emily Pereira had three blocks. Making the postseason for the first time in school history, Marin was the second place team from the Bay Valley Conference and closed the season at 18-10.
No. 15 Cosumnes River d. No. 18 Modesto, 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-22): Miah Williamson scored eight kills (hit .500), served six aces and added three blocks for 16 scoring points as two Big 8 teams tussled for the third time this season with the Hawks winning the rubber match. CRC (17-12) was swept by the Pirates (13-13) in the first conference encounter, then won in four sets on Nov. 5. This time, Cosumnes River used home advantage to beat a Pirates team that finished ahead of the Hawks in the Big 8 standings (Modesto fourth, CRC fifth). Since RPI was used, Modesto lost home advantage despite the placings. Victoria Espinoza was strong defensively for the Hawks with 18 digs while Modesto's Ava Chiesa scored a match-high 15 kills.
No. 16 Hartnell d. No. 17 Ohlone, 3-1 (22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-20): In another same conference matchup, the Coast North third-place Panthers (16-13) defeated the fourth-place Renegades (15-13) for the third time in three meetings to punch a ticket or draw the short straw to face state #1 Feather River. The story of the match was the play of Ohlone's Clare Mannion Deal who was the "real deal" as she pounded 29 kills in 76 attempts with 17 digs and five aces for an amazing 34 points scored. For Hartnell, Yesenia Soria Campa, an All-Coast First Team selection, totaled 10 kills (hit .391) and had four blocks while another All-Coast First Teamer Aailyah Foster ripped 14 kills with four aces. Kanoa Kahana added 22 digs, six aces, five kills, and three blocks.
ROUND 1 MATCHUPS, TUESDAY, NOV. 23
No. 16 Hartnell at No. 1 Feather River
No. 15 Cosumnes River at No. 2 West Valley
No. 14 De Anza at No. 3 Fresno City
No. 13 Monterey Peninsula at No. 4 Sierra
No. 12 Solano at No. 5 American River
No. 11 Shasta at No. 6 Cabrillo
No. 10 Butte at No. 7 San Mateo
No. 9 San Joaquin Delta at No. 8 Sequoias
No. 17 Fullerton at No. 1 Bakersfield
No. 15 Canyons at No. 2 Pasadena City
No. 14 Long Beach City at No. 3 San Diego Mesa
No. 13 Grossmont at No. 4 Cypress
No. 12 Golden West at No. 5 Santa Barbara City
No. 11 MiraCosta at No. 6 Moorpark
No. 10 Ventura at No. 7 Irvine Valley
No. 9 Orange Coast at No. 8 Mt. San Antonio
winners advance to Round 2, Nov. 27
Release by Robert Lewis, CCCWVCA SID