EUREKA — Despite a four-hour trip, the Calistoga High volleyball team was not swayed from its path to the CIF North Coast Section Div. 6 championship game.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats stunned No. 4 seed St. Bernard’s Academy, 25-13, 20-25, 25-16, 25-20, in a semifinal Wednesday night.
Calistoga (12-9) will host No. 10 seed Jewish Community School (7-12) of San Francisco in the championship game at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Wildcats came out strong in the first set and did not look back. The combination of Hayseel Barrera and Litzy Infante proved to be too much for the Crusaders (9-13) to handle. Barrera had 12 kills and five service aces and Infante added nine kills and six aces.
“They’ve really wanted this,” Calistoga head coach T’Anne Butcher said. “They’ve been fighting for it. They just played like champions.”
Calistoga wasn’t always such a dominant team. Back-row teammates Jasmin Lopez and Vanessa Quiepo remember what it was like from the beginning of the season to now, and they see a change in their team’s chemistry.
They said practicing and getting closer as a team has helped the Wildcats become a family, and that they got better the more they spent together.
The second set belonged to St. Bernard’s as senior outside hitter Emily Gardner was not going to let her team go quietly into the night. The first point scored by the Crusaders was all Gardner, as she had back-to-back blocks followed by a damaging kill shot. Gardner finished with a game-high 14 kills along with six blocks and six aces.
The second set win by St. Bernard’s also had a lot to do with the performance of junior Josie Peterson, who finished with 10 kills, six blocks and four aces.
But the Crusaders struggled to get their serve going consistently were not nearly as competitive in the next two sets, dropping both to the Wildcats.
Two postseason Cinderella runs will come to a head on Saturday in a matchup of two extreme underdogs, No. 10 at No. 8.
“Our school has never been this far,” Butcher said. “And now we’re two steps ahead of where I’ve ever been before.”