Entering the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Championship Tournament seeded fourth in their bracket, the girls’ varsity volleyball team has had the luxury of two straight home games. The first was a convincing first-round victory over Malibu High School, which ensured them to have Buena High School as their second-round venue. On Saturday night, the Dragons took on the Firebirds of Pacific Ridge High School. Foothill prevailed in this tightly contested game, sending the Firebirds home after five hard-fought sets.
The first set started with each team scoring four points apiece, but the Dragons established a lead they would never relinquish. A kill from Lexi Malone ‘19 sparked a rally and propelled the Dragons in what would eventually be a 25-16 set win for Foothill.
Although the second set was tied at three different instances, the Firebirds held onto a lead for its entirety. Pacific Ridge jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead, only to see the Dragons chip away at the lead and eventually tie the score at seven. Shortly after, the Firebirds worked their way to a 19-12 lead, only to see this lead evaporate as well. The resilient Foothill squad clawed their way back to a tie at 21 apiece, but the Firebirds scored four straight points to win the second set, 25-21.
In the third set, the teams found themselves deadlocked at eight points apiece until the Dragons gained momentum and found themselves with a 20-15 lead. Pacific Ridge made it close, cutting Foothill’s lead to 24-21, but the Dragons converted on match point. Their 25-21 set win put them one away from victory.
With their season on the line, the Firebirds engaged in another hard-fought set with Foothill. It was another nail-biter; the two teams were knotted at 17 points apiece until Pacific Ridge took control. Aided by three straight points, the Firebirds tied the overall match with a 25-20 win in the fourth set.
The fifth set turned the game into a win-or-go-home situation for both teams. Initially, the energy seemed to be sucked out of the building after the Firebirds scored six straight points to open the set, which eventually resulted in a commanding 8-3 lead. Head coach Kris Gullatt called timeout, and Heather Ellison ‘18 and her teammates were able to rally around Gullatt’s encouragement.
“He just kind of encouraged us and just told us ‘it’s a fight […]’ and then the girls talked to each other and we tried to give each other encouragement,“ Ellison explained. “[We] said, we’re not going home like this; this is how we’re going to do it.”
Not long after, the crowd was rejuvenated after a scoring run which evened the score at ten. The Dragons took this momentum and carried it through the rest of the set. Foothill narrowly won the tie-breaking third set 15-13 to advance to the quarterfinals of the CIF State Tournament.
Next up for the Dragons is the quarterfinal round. They will be opposed by the Centurions of University City High School, who won their second round matchup on Saturday against Colony High School in four sets. The game will be played in San Diego, the home of the number-one seeded Centurions. At home, University City has not lost a game, posting a perfect 12-0 record.
Ashley Pazen ‘20 described the preparation that would come before the pivotal third-round matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
“It’s going to be a lot of working on defense, offense, covering, things that we struggled with today, and just go out and play each other,” she said. “We’re already prepared for the next match, it’s just getting in the gym and playing.”