Lady Trojans eliminated by St. Mary’s in section semis

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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After disposing of Tokay and Monterey Trail in the first two rounds of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, the momentum of the Oak Ridge girls’ volleyball team was halted by Tri-City Conference champion St. Mary’s (Stockton) in the section semis on Tuesday night. Oak Ridge gave the Lady Rams all they had in the first two games before St. Mary’s emphatically shut the door on the Lady Trojans’ season in the third, 25-22, 25-23 and 25-11. It was an emotional ending of the season for the Lady Trojans. “As a coach, I’ve had better records, I’ve won medals in (club) nationals and had greater success with other teams but this is by far my favorite team,” said Oak Ridge coach Becky Potter, whose Lady Trojans finished the season at 21-12. “It’s rare that you can find a group of 14 high school girls that you can enjoy so much. That’s why this loss was so hard. I didn’t want it to end.” The two teams traded sideouts all the way up to the 8-8 mark of the first game when a Haley Simmons’ swing gave Oak Ridge the ball. Amelia Crye gave Oak Ridge a six-point cushion with a pair of aces to go up 14-8 before St. Mary’s rallied back and reversed the momentum by taking a 19-16 lead. The Lady Rams had Oak Ridge at game point in game one when the Lady Trojans mustered up three straight points to shrink the deficit to two. St. Mary’s’ setter Elizabeth Hoover’s dump caught the Trojan defense off-guard and gave the Lady Rams a 25-22 win and a 1-0 match advantage. Game two remained close late in the set when Crye sandwiched a pair of her seven kills on the night around a Mysha Davies blast to knot the score at 17. After a Simmons kill gave Oak Ridge a sideout, the score was once again tied at 23 before a pair of untimely Oak Ridge errors preceded a kill from junior Melissa Brum to close out the second game, 25-23. With Oak Ridge’s back now at the wall, St. Mary’s did everything to keep it there. They seemed to dig every hit, block every shot at the net, capitalize on every Trojan miscue and execute every set to take the third set convincingly, 25-11 and move onto the D-I section finals on Thursday night at UC Davis. “Even after game two, I thought we still had it. We hung in the whole match but we just had a few untimely errors. I think we had a hard time containing that excited energy and the thought that this could be the last match. I never thought for a second that we weren’t trying or didn’t put our hearts into it,” Potter said. “I can’t put into words how much I love this team. With this ending, it’s just surreal,” said middle blocker Arden Zuber, who gave Oak Ridge four kills on her final night suiting up as a Lady Trojan. “I think the biggest thing that got us this far is our heart and wanting to work for everyone else,” said Simmons, who led Oak Ridge with 11 kills on what was also her last game in the Trojan gym. “This is one of the first years that we’ve had this kind of team chemistry. Each game we were pulling it out because we wanted it for each other.”