VOLLEYBALL: Gavilan needs five sets to get past Skyline in regular-season finale

Avry Walker puts down one of her four kills in Wednesday's match.

GILROY – Looking on the bright side of the Gavilan College
women’s volleyball team’s 3-2 victory over crossover Coast
Conference opponent Skyline: The Rams were able to triumph in the
regular-season finale.
GILROY – Looking on the bright side of Gavilan’s 3-2 victory against crossover Coast Conference opponent Skyline, the Rams were able to triumph in the regular-season finale.

On the other hand, Gavilan wasted a convincing 2-0 set lead to the Trojans, before finally cementing the match in the winner-take-all fifth set, 25-16, 25-22, 18-25, 21-25, 15-8 on Wednesday in Gilroy.

Nonetheless, the win supplied a much-needed lift as the Rams await the start of their second straight postseason.

“We needed something to kind of light the fire a little bit,” Gavilan head coach Kevin Kramer said. “We have been battling really hard. As a coach I have tried about every trick in the book to motivate them, take some pressure off them, put some pressure on them. And right now the best thing is for me to kind of get out of the way and make adjustments as need be.”

The Rams clinched their playoff spot nearly three weeks ago in a sweep of Chabot College. But Gavilan, who finished runner-up in the Coast Conference South to the state’s No. 1 team, Cabrillo, has since been bogged down in a late-season slump, leading to three defeats in their final five outings. The slide coincided with the loss of the team’s emotional leader on the court, Jackie Lantis, to a broken foot.

“Ever since we lost Jackie there’s been a competitiveness that’s kind of gone out. And other players have been trying to fill it and take on that role,” Kramer said. “It’s a matter of who’s going to do it when. And sometimes it’s not there. We are pretty young so we are trying to learn how to do that, collectively. We are a work in progress.”

Wednesday’s effort can easily be characterized as a team victory, with six Rams (16-8 overall, 8-2 conference) registering kills. Sophomore Jessica Rux and freshman Emily Tonascia paced the group with eight kills each, while freshman KC Beadle provided timely attacks with six kills to spark the Rams.

The first two sets followed close to script for Gavilan as it cruised to the early 2-0 lead.

After falling behind 10-5 in the third set, the Rams pieced together an 11-6 run to knot the score at 16-all, which prompted Skyline coach Rayannah Salahuddin to call a momentum-curbing timeout.

The ploy worked as the Trojans (9-18 overall, 4-6 conference) bombarded Gavilan with an 8-2 burst to stay alive in the match.

Skyline opened up a 21-16 lead late in the fourth set, before kills from Avry Walker, Kelsie Asp and Rux, and a pair of Skyline unforced errors, put the Rams within two points at 23-21. But the Trojans secured the deciding points to send the match into the fifth.

Gavilan quickly mounted a 5-0 lead, backed by two Melissa Avila aces. The home team weathered a brief 3-0 run by the visitors to 11-7 before punctuating the win.

“We just need someone to step up when we are out there and say,’I’m a killer, I want the ball,'” said sophomore Jenifer Huebner, one of four sophomores (Rux, Shayna Nakata and Liz Hermosillo the other three) honored before the game in their final home contest.

“We didn’t need (the win), but it’s a confidence booster going into the playoffs. It’s like a pickup game that you want to play before. And the fact that we won is good. We battled.”

Seeding for the Northern California Regional playoffs will be released Sunday with the first round commencing Nov. 23.

“The big thing is once you get there, anything can happen,” Kramer said.

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