Vintage defended its home court in picking up the first Big Game volleyball victory of the year, sweeping Napa High 25-16, 25-19, 25-17 in a Monticello Empire League match Wednesday night.

Both Vintage (5-7, 3-2 MEL) and Napa (1-11, 0-4 MEL) and have had rocky starts to the season with their young, up-and-coming squads. But after going 1-3 in the Harbor Tournament last weekend in Santa Cruz, the Crushers enjoyed a 2-0 week in the MEL.

“It is always an exciting time during the Big Game and we had a big crowd here tonight,” Vintage head coach Kelly Porter said. “I was happy how we played tonight and I think we turned a corner in our game. It was really nice to see the girls getting into a rhythm and playing a lot more scrappy defense.”

For Napa, the pattern of strong starts that fizzle out continued. The Indians had the lead early in both the second and third games before the Crushers rallied.

“We are a young squad, but bottom line is that isn’t an excuse,” Napa head coach Kelly Van Winden said. “We have struggled closing. We have been up on every team in the MEL. We just get to the point where we stop and the other team just goes ahead. Vintage just played some good volleyball tonight.”

Kelsey Klungel was vital for the Crushers with a team-high 11 kills. The junior outside hitter also scored five aces, notched six digs and blocked two balls.

Cassidy Schweizer continued to be a reliable piece for Vintage, the senior setter finishing with seven kills and eight assists.

The Crushers also got a strong performance from senior Ellie Gauger, who secured eight kills and had five digs.

“I thought that Ellie Gauger really stepped up and surprised me tonight,” Porter said. “I left her in all game tonight and she had some great swings on the ball. She is a senior and you always want to see them do well.”

Vintage also got eight digs from junior Olivia Ilsley and five digs, 12 assists, five aces and two kills from sophomore Maddie Klungel.

The Crushers used an 11-4 run in the middle of Game 1 to turn the once-close set into an easy 25-16 win. A major key was two late 5-0 runs by the hosts after the Indians had been holding close with Vintage.

Napa, which got solid contributions from freshman setter Mia Larson, opened the second set with the largest point streak of the evening in taking a 7-0 lead. After picking up their largest lead of the night at 10-2, the Indians hit the wall. The Crushers took a timeout and countered with a 10-2 run of their own to tie the set at 12-all.

Each team exchanged points until the score was 15-15, when the Crushers took over the second set for good. Vintage ended the game on a 10-4 run to win 25-19.

“They have a quiet confidence about them and they don’t get real rattled from getting down,” Porter said. “A couple weeks ago, we wouldn’t have come back from that deficit. But I feel we were playing real confident and I didn’t have any doubt that we would recover from being down.”

Napa once again jumped out to a hot start to begin the third set, taking a 6-2 advantage. The Crushers continued to have the answer, however, quickly taking the lead with a 5-0 run of their own.

Things went from bad to worse for the Indians in the middle of the third set when they lost Maddie Larson to an ankle injury.

“Her role in the backcourt has been pretty big this season,” Van Winden said. “We all saw that she made some great saves tonight. She is just a sophomore and alongside Breck Hearn, those two are the future of the program.”

After playing a challenging preseason schedule that featured Sonoma County heavyweights Sonoma Valley, Santa Rosa and Cardinal Newman, the Indians have not been able to stay healthy during MEL play.

“In every MEL contest we have played, we have lost a starter to injury,” Van Winden said. “So we are always coming from behind, and it doesn’t feel so good.”

After the third set was tied 6-6, the hosts did not trail for the rest of the match. Vintage took advantage of Napa errors to cruise to a 25-17 Game 3 victory.

“We put out some good entertainment until about 18th or 19th point, and then we just stop playing,” Van Winden said. “That is our gig right now and that’s what’s going on.”

The win gives Vintage its first winning streak of the season, and it will look to keep the momentum going in the second round of MEL play. The Crushers host league-leading Vacaville at 6 p.m. Monday in a key MEL showdown, while Napa looks to pick up its first league win of the season against Rodriguez in Cordelia.

Vintage JV 2, Napa 0

Eliza Mason had 11 assists and two ace as the Crushers won 25-20, 25-13. Ana Busby added four kills and six aces, and Olivia Ostler had two aces, three kills and two digs.

Vintage Freshmen 2, Napa 0

The Crushers won 25-19, 25-17.

In Game 1, Olivia Kerr served three aces, Natalie Harlow served one ace and assisted on two kills by Julia Scheumann, and Makenzie Wallace served one ace and assisted Lyla Cosper with a kill.

Game 2 saw Ashley Hall get a kill, Kerr and Wallace each serve two more aces, and Harlow and Cosper each serve another ace.

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