Fresno City knocks off #1 Feather River in 4, advances to host state final

Lexi Pagani drives a kill to help Fresno advance to the state championship match at Fresno City College Saturday night (Photo by David Sanborn).
Lexi Pagani drives a kill to help Fresno advance to the state championship match at Fresno City College Saturday night (Photo by David Sanborn).

CCCAA State Semifinals
Match #6
N3 Fresno City d. N1 Feather River, 25-16, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19
Feather River tied for 3rd place

FRESNO -- It was the rubber match after two tightly played regular season contests, but Fresno City College saw a flaw in state #1-ranked and top North seed Feather River's defense and exploited it. The Rams ended the defending 2019 state champion Golden Eagles 23-match win streak and advanced to the CCCAA Women's Volleyball Championship final in a 4-set victory Saturday night before a jam-packed crowd at the FCC gym.

Fresno improved to 32-3 as it will face North #2 seed West Valley in the state championship match on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Rams last won the title in the 2016 season while the Vikings are looking for their first state title in their program history.

Once again, the efficient Fresno offense relied on its Big 3 of hitters in Diamond'Nique Young, 14 kills and .385 attack percentage, Lexi Pagani 12 kills (plus seven digs, three aces and two blocks), and Claire Corippo, 11 kills, nine digs and three aces. Setter Julia Pagani added 37 assists. 

For Feather River (32-2), Courtney Oilar scored 10 kills and made four blocks while Callie Muniz had an all-around strong performance on six kills, five aces, five blocks, and five digs.

A frenetic fourth set saw Feather River rallying facing match point at 24-17. A Muniz kill and a FCC attack error was followed by a rally that ended with Fresno libero Ali Santoyo making a bump that sailed over the net only to see the ball surprisingly drop in for match point. 

"Ali is the player that makes the machine work for us," said Fresno head coach Kieran Roblee. "She was our starting libero on the 2019 team and she is just a steady player who her teammates rely on for her experience and her strong passing and serving abilities. I feel like she is certainly one of the best liberos in the North region."

On the match, she said, "We saw some seams we could attack, but I think we may have been too aggressive in our serving (13 service errors) in trying to go after those seams. But we used a slightly different game plan than the other two times we played other. We did a good job picking up tips and that was a big factor."

Feather River head coach Sarah Ritchie said, "Fresno's kids showed up to play, and we simply did not show up. They served very tough but our passing wasn't very good and it's something that we didn't do well here at state. Our kids showed some fight later in the match. We'll get back here next year, you can count on it."

Leading 14-13 in the first set, Fresno went on a tear as it outscored the Golden Eagles, 11-3 to close out the game victory. It was the lowest scoring set by Feather River all season. FRC also hit .000 while Fresno hit .344. In the second set, Feather River turned the tables as it hit .524 (12 kills) and got back to its high-flying ways with Muniz delivering four kills and two aces and Lelaau Molia Tuia three kills. FRC's 7-point win meant for the first time in the six state tourney matches there would be no sweep.

In the third set, Fresno led 7-1, then 12-4. Feather River battled back and tied it at 21-21. However, Fresno captured the pivotal set with kills by four different players capped by a bomb by Young. In the fourth set, the teams traded sideouts with nine ties, the last at 13-13. Santoyo served a 4-0 run for the Rams, including an ace for a 17-13 lead. Feather River self-destructed at that point with five attack errors and then Santoyo's lucky bump for match point.

Feather River went 31-0 against everyone not named Fresno, but 1-2 against the Rams this season.

Release by Robert Lewis, CCCAA/CCCWVCA State Championship SID