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Prep Volleyball

Napa Valley Prep Volleyball: Vintage pulls into tie with Justin-Siena atop VVAL

A short service run to open the first game was just the beginning, but it set the tone for the Vintage High volleyball team in its most important match of the season so far.

The Crushers’ finished with 15 aces and just five missed serves as they avenged their only Vine Valley Athletic League loss with a 25-18, 13-25, 25-15, 25-17 win at Justin-Siena on Tuesday night.

Maddie McPhee had nine of the aces for Vintage (15-5, 10-1 VVAL), which got strong play at the net from Madisyn Flohr, Peyton Williams, Mel McPhee and Maddie McPhee. The Crushers also finished as a team with 35 kills, 11 blocks and 37 digs. Alex Whipple dished out 31 set assists.

“The key for us was tough serving,” Crushers head coach Kelly Porter said. “We had some amazing runs with a lot of aces.”

Anna Hanson led Justin-Siena (13-5, 10-1 VVAL) with 16 kills, while Ranessa Rualo had 21 assists and was the Braves’ serving leader, and Reagan Brumfield had 6 digs.

“Tonight was a tough loss,” Braves head coach Kate Reilley said. “While there were moments of greatness, unfortunately we made too many unforced errors and let Vintage go on too many serving runs. Our mental game is what killed us, which is unfortunate because that is a team we should have beat again.”

But Porter said the Crushers came in with a strategy.

“We wanted to make their setter play the first ball and make sure that Hanson was going to set that second ball, to take her out of hitting. But they worked well around that. Their libero stepped in,” she explained.

“We weren’t hitting the ball enough to take them out of an offense, so we needed to be a little more effective with hitting around the block, and putting balls down, not aiming straight to where their defensive players were. And then we started finessing it more and I think that made a big difference; we were able to pick up on our middles and give our setter a chance to dump over (in Game 3) — which was good; I would have loved to have seen that a few more times. That just gave us that confidence to go hard and I think it made a big difference being able to mix it up with our hitting. Once we ran the middle, then once we put the ball outside to the right or left it opened up the other hitters more.”

The Braves appeared to have grabbed the momentum with the 12-point rout in Game 2. But Vintage came right back with a double-digit margin of victory of its own in the third game, then held off a late charge by the Braves in Game 4.

“We had a little lapse in Game 2, and it never feels good to lose by double-digits,” Porter said. “But we bounced back well. The momentum can swing on a dime, so when (the student section) starts yelling ‘This game’s over’ when it’s a 10-point lead, you can’t rule them out. They came back and made it pretty close at the end.

“We knew it was going to be competitive. They’re a solid team and it really was a matter of rhythm tonight and we came out with it. It was back and forth and back and forth, and we knew who their weapons were. I knew Hanson was going to be strong over there, that lefty. She’s got a wicked arm swing so we knew we had to put up a really strong block against her. She used us and abused us quite a bit. But we were able to expose them on our middle. We didn’t have that in the second set, so we went back to that in the third and fourth sets and controlled the tempo.”

Neither team has its share of the title wrapped up.

Porter, who was Justin-Siena’s head coach for nine seasons and is in her 12th year at Vintage, said the 10 seniors she has this year is the most she’s ever had on a team. All will be recognized with family members before Thursday night’s key clash with third-place American Canyon.

“This was a great win,” Porter said. “But we still have to go up against American Canyon and they’re solid. They’re a scrappy team.”

Meanwhile, the Petaluma team the Justin-Siena needs to beat knocked off American Canyon last week.

“While we were struggling with a few injuries, that is no excuse and we need to be able to count on our entire team to take care of business,” Reilley said. “We have a fairly young team, and this is a great lesson for us moving forward. We will learn from this loss as we go into our game against Petaluma Thursday, and as we continue into the postseason.”

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.

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