With a packed gym at Cabrillo Middle School, the girls’ varsity volleyball team took down the Nordhoff Rangers in quick succession after a defeat in the first set. The Dragons won the match in four sets, 18-25, 25-13, 25-12, and 25-11.
The first set of the game began with the Dragons striking first, with a hard hit that the Rangers were unable to return over the net. Nordhoff then followed with six straight points including several aces until junior Setter Taryn Savard lobbed it up to sophomore Lexi Malone, who finished with a kill, bringing the score to 2-6.
The very next play, junior Faith Mackie made a diving pass which resulted in junior Heather Ellison hitting over the Nordhoff blockers for another kill. While the Dragons never were down by too much, Nordhoff remained steadily ahead for the rest of the set, despite kills by Malone, Ellison, and senior Kasie Spencer. The final set score was 18-25.
Foothill struggled in the first set, unable to find a rhythm, and Spencer acknowledged this after the game. “We got off to a rough start, but we stuck together and we figured it out,” she said.
Coach Kris Gullatt spoke about letting the players “self-correct” and letting them figure it out on their own.
“I’ve been talking to the girls a lot about not needing the coaches as much,” he said. “They need to be able to correct themselves.”
The Dragons followed the wishes of their coach and came together in the second set, with Foothill tallying their first three points after a block and two kills by Malone. Spencer followed up with a kill from the back row, bringing the score to 4-2, in favor of the Dragons. Foothill then went on an 6-0 run, polished off by an ace from sophomore Haley Higgins.
The Rangers retaliated with a run of their own, but the Dragons answered with back to back kills by Savard. With the score at 16-10, senior Payton Grenier blocked a middle hit, putting the Dragons up seven points. Mackie and junior Morgan Gallagher tallied two aces and Foothill ended the set on a 6-0 run, winning the set 25-13, the Dragons and the Rangers each having won a single set apiece.
Spencer began the third set with an ace, but Nordhoff was quick to respond, with an ace of their own. After a pass from Mackie, a set from Savard, and a kill from Gallagher, the Dragons found themselves down 4-5.
But then, Malone sparked a 9-0 run with three kills and two blocks during the stint. The score suddenly favored the Dragons, 13-5. The set went back and forth, Foothill holding firmly onto the lead, and the set ended after Higgins dove out of bounds to make a one-handed save that resulted in a kill for Grenier. The set score was 25-12, with Foothill up two sets to one.
The fourth set was quick, and Foothill dominated the Rangers. Gallagher, Grenier, Higgins, and sophomore Peal Esparza all had kills, as Mackie and Savard ran the offense with their passing. The Dragons were on top 24-11 after the final kill for Spencer, and when the Rangers failed to return the serve on the final play, the Dragons won 25-11, winning the match three sets to one.
Malone was “proud of the team” and had words to say regarding their solid victory over Nordhoff.
“I think we worked together really hard,” she said. “I think we finally got together with blocks and our serves were a lot tougher and stronger than usual.”
With only two league games left, the Dragons have found themselves in CIF playoff contention. Coach Gullatt feels confident in his girls and their ability to battle for a championship.
“I don’t see any reason why, if we play really really well, that we can’t make it to a CIF final,” he said. “We had a loss on Tuesday against La Reina, but we played well [and] they know the things they need to work on.”
Malone also spoke of La Reina, saying, “I’m sure if we do get close, we’re gonna have to play against La Reina again and that’s our toughest competition.”
The main goal for the team is to win the CIF championship. The Dragons are ready for the challenge, and have high expectations for themselves.
“Who knows,” Gullatt said with a smile, “maybe [we can] bring home some hardware.”