Had the Vintage High volleyball team gone to five sets with visiting Cardinal Newman on Wednesday night, a collective “here we go again” might have emanated from Crushers’ bench.
Vintage was forced to five sets last season by not only the Cardinals – for the second preseason in a row – but by seven of their first nine opponents, and they won only four of those matches.
This one looked like it might also go the distance after Vintage won the first set and Cardinal Newman took the second. It appeared the talented Cardinals might even prevail, until Vintage pulled off miraculous comeback win in the third set and cruised in the fourth to seal a 25-22, 15-25, 26-24, 25-21 nonleague win.
Vintage never led in the second set. The hosts kept it close until five straight service points by one of the Cardinals’ big hitters put them up decisively, 17-8. Crushers head coach Kelly Porter called a timeout both during that run and after the visitors went up 22-10.
In the third set, after five missed serves by Vintage, Cardinal Newman was up 24-19 and well on the way to taking the match lead. But a kill by Vintage junior Olivia Ostler put sophomore teammate Krista Young at the service line. The libero rattled off six straight service points, one on an ace off the net, to give Vintage the 2-1 match lead instead.
“It was all about momentum. That’s what volleyball is all about,” said junior Julia Bodor, who led the Crushers with 15 kills. “It’s just momentum and getting a lead and having a hot player serving. We push each other and do our best together and just want to work hard. Once we get our momentum and once we get all our just intensity, we just kill it. We just are unstoppable.”
Bodor played junior varsity for Justin-Siena as a freshman before transferring to Vintage and making the varsity as a sophomore last year, but had to sit out the first 30 days the season because of transfer rules.
“They have a really good volleyball program here and I like the environment of a bigger school,” she said. “A lot of my friends were going here, so it just appealed to me.”
Cardinal Newman gave Vintage a good test with its combination of powerful hitting and defense; one Cardinal had three rare pancake digs.
“Yeah, they are pretty good,” Bodor said. “I knew some of them from club and they have some really good players. But we’re a good team and we fought back.”
Vintage came within a five-set loss to Casa Grande – in which it was missing setter Maddie Klungel due to a 104-degree fever – of tying eventual outright champion Justin-Siena for the Vine Valley Athletic League title last season.
“I’m really hoping we can win league this year,” Bodor said. “I think we have enough determination and motivation, so I think we can do it. I really hope we get a pennant in here.”
Junior Sarah Gauger had eight kills and two aces, Ostler nine kills, two blocks and two aces, sophomore Madisyn Flohr and Young six digs apiece, senior Klungel 30 assists, four blocks and an ace, junior Julia Scheumann two blocks, and senior Liza Mason two aces.
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“We got a lot of good attacks and good swings,” Vintage head coach Kelly Porter said. “Last year our stats were pretty top heavy. Tonight there were like four people leading us.”
Rounding out the Crushers are seniors Cintli Camacho, Jordan Whitehead and Mason’s twin sister, Katie Mason, junior Elisa Gonzalez, and freshman Maria Bodor.
Kelly Porter is in her eighth season as the Crushers’ head coach, with Tiffany Molinar as her main assistant coach. Molinar, who played under Porter when Porter coached Justin-Siena prior to taking the helm at her Vintage alma mater, was the Braves’ head coach when they won their most recent North Coast Section title in 2013.
“We work very well together; we match each other’s intensity,” Porter said. “And I feel like we mirror each other a lot on what we say to the kids. It’s nice to have somebody that can jump in and have my back when I’m making decisions. We have like minds when it comes to making up a lineup. It’s good that we’ve worked together in club, and I had her here as a JV coach here a couple years back.”
Molinar was impressed with the third-set comeback.
“They believe in themselves. We believe,” she said, adding that they ignored the scoreboard well. “That’s what we try to focus on: Don’t worry about everything else that’s going on.”
Porter has seven returners from last year’s VVAL runners-up, including two who were on the junior varsity as juniors.
The returners are led by setter Klungel, whom Porter said is verbally committed to play at Cal State Northridge.
“Maddie is a pretty dynamic player,” Porter said. “She’s quick and makes great decisions.”
Porter was pleased that a player as young as Young came through at the end of the third set.
“Krista came in when we were down by eight points and we came back. That doesn’t usually happen in the game of volleyball,” Porter said. “Once somebody steals the momentum and gets in that rhythm, it’s tough to break. So she came in and served tough as a sophomore.”
The Vintage JV won 25-22, 25-20 behind Lyla Cosper’s six aces and Reece Larson three digs.
The Vintage freshmen also won, 25-19, 25-18.