GILROY—One down, two to go.
The No. 4 seed Christopher started its run in the Monterey Bay League Postseason Tournament with a 3-1 win—25-17, 13-25, 25-19, 25-22—over No. 5 Monterey Thursday at home. The victory was the team’s first in the playoffs and puts the Cougars one step closer to reaching their goal of playing in the Central Coast Section Tournament.
“I thought it was an awesome win for us,” junior middle hitter Brevin Zollinger said. “That’s a big, big win for Christopher volleyball and for volleyball in general.”
The Cougars took a 2-1 lead into Set 4, but struggled in the early going. Monterey scored four straight points en route to an 11-6 lead. While Christopher was down, it wasn’t out.
Cougar captain Alec Menacho notched a kill through the Toreadors’ defense at the net to cut the lead to 14-12. Another kill from the captain and two more from Zollinger tied the game at 17-all and swung the momentum in Christopher’s favor.
The Toreadors stayed right on Christopher’s heels before a hard kill to opposite corner from Miles Gundy put the game point on the line. A foul kept Monterey alive, but Zollinger sealed the ‘W’ with a kill of his own.
“I think our chemistry has gotten a lot better throughout the season,” Zollinger said. “Now we’re starting to connect with our hits and our sets and our backrow passes.”
The Cougars struggled in Set 2 and Monterey took full advantage. The home team took an early 5-3 lead, but a slew of errors translated to easy points for the Toreadors. When Christopher did have the ball, it had trouble knocking it over the net. Monterey, on the other hand, had no problem putting points on the board and outscored the Cougars 9-3 to end the game.
“I think reading their hitters were a problem for us,” Menacho said, noting he told his team it needed to communicate better heading into Set 3. “They got us many times with their hits, but we caught up.”
The Cougars looked like a different team in the third set and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Their defense was solid, thanks in part to libero Bryant Huyhn. He made it near impossible for Monterey to score, making several sliding digs to keep the ball in play.
Gundy was stellar in finding holes in the Toreadors’ defense and used to powerful swing to put his team up 19-12 midway through the set.
Monterey clawed its way back, getting with four points late, but two scores from Arjay Jimenez and a kill from Tyler Galloway put the set away for Christopher.
The Cougars were just as dominant in the opening set as they scored seven unanswered points to lead 8-1.
Mistakes allowed the Toreadors to get within four, 12-8, but stellar hitting from Gundy put things back in the Cougars’ favor. The teams’ exchanged points late, both getting three a piece to cut Christopher’s lead to 24-17, but a key kill from Galloway gave his team the game point it need to win.
“I think Miles did awesome with his hitting today,” Menacho said. “I think putting the ball away was a strength that we had tonight.”
The Cougars postseason run continues at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. They will take on the No. 1 seed Palma in Salinas in the tournament semifinals. The two teams have met twice this season and the Chieftains won both times, but Christopher isn’t intimidated.
“We’ve just got to attack. If we enforce our (style of) volleyball on them, we’ll be successful,” Zollinger said. “We (played) them a couple weeks ago and we made it close, so I think we can definitely get that win and move on to the finals.”
GILROY—One down, two to go.