Oak Ridge outlasts Monterey Trail, advances to section semis

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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Two down, two to go. After a convincing opening round victory over Tokay High on Tuesday, the Oak Ridge girls’ volleyball team received a much tougher challenge from Monterey Trail on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The Lady Trojans prevailed in four games, 25-17, 25-16, 18-25 and 25-23. The first two games seemed like a breeze for the Lady Trojans against a team that they defeated 3-1 in late September. The Lady Mustangs, however, made it apparent that they weren’t ready to have their season come to an end in games three and four. “I have to say that games one and two were the surprising games. I knew Monterey Trail was going to be good. They took a game off of us in the preseason. They got better. We got better. They have an excellent coach and a dynamic group of girls,” said Oak Ridge coach Becky Potter. In game one, Oak Ridge setter Tara McDermott served up three straight aces while middle blocker Arden Zuber had two big blocks during a seven-point swing to cushion the Lady Trojan lead at 20-10. After a crafty McDermott dump, Haley Simmons finished off the game to give Oak Ridge a one-game advantage. Three consecutive aces from Amelia Crye gave Oak Ridge a 14-9 lead in game two before McDermott —who also led Oak Ridge with 34 assists— continued her hot serving with two more aces that gave the Lady Trojans a 23-16 lead before the victory. With their season pushed to the brink, Monterey Trail rallied behind Erika Clay, Christen Williams and Naomi Evans to extend their year at least one more game, as the trio accounted for nearly half of the Lady Mustang points over the final two games. Oak Ridge persevered in the end as senior hitter Alexa Becker unlocked a 19-all tie with two straight aces during a four-point shift in momentum for the Lady Trojans. Two points later, the match would result in Oak Ridge advancing to the Division I semifinals. “For me and probably for the rest of our seniors, we thought that if we didn’t win this game, it could be the end of our season. That definitely lit a fire,” explained Becker, who led the Lady Trojans with 10 kills. “We got a little ahead of ourselves in the first two games since we beat them by such big margins. In the third game, they might have gotten in our heads a little bit and we got a little shaky,” said Zuber. “Playing on our home court is our comfort zone and we didn’t want our last game to be at home.” The Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals are on Tuesday, as Oak Ridge (21-11) will host St. Mary’s of Stockton (25-8) for a chance to play for the section and Northern California championships. “We’re going to learn from this match,” said Potter. “This coming Tuesday, we will have either one more match or three more matches. That will be another big push for us.”