Prep Volleyball: Dela Merced keeps Cougars’ spirits up in loss to San Benito

Christopher's Brittney Souza bumps the ball for the Cougars during their away game Tuesday against San Benito.

Whether Christopher was down by one point or 10, Cheyanne Dela Merced never let up.
Dela Merced made her presence known in the stat book — she had seven kills, 11 digs and four blocks — and on the court. The senior setter was a the voice of encouragement, keeping the Cougars intensity up despite being swept 3-0 by San Benito during the inaugural Central Coast Section Sportsmanship game in Hollister Tuesday.
Even after the game, Dela Merced’s spirit wasn’t dampered.
“It was our first game; there’s only going up from here,” the senior setter said. “It’s a new division and considering where we were last year, we’ve improved a lot. It feels good to be able to compete with this level of competition.”
San Benito topped Christopher 25-12, 25-21, 25-12, though the game doesn’t count towards either team’s season record. The Sportsmanship Game is played as a way to raise money for the CCS Sportsmanship and Scholarship program.
The brightest spot for the Cougars was the rally that was sparked in Game 2. San Benito led by 18-9 and looked to have the game in the bag, only for Christopher to claw it’s way back to within a point at 22-21. Dela Merced’s 11 digs, as well as her team being able to capitalize on the Balers’ mistakes helped keep Christopher stay in the game.
“If I could have seven of her, that would be awesome,” CHS coach Brian Calimpong said. “You’ll get one Cheyanne in 10 years. She’s absolutely the heart and soul of our team. She’s the setter, she’s like the quarterback in football. She had a tough job because our passing wasn’t as crisp as it should’ve been.”
Dela Merced wasn’t the only Cougar who had a good night, however. Marielle Gomez, Christa Arroyo, Oliva Tabron and Brittney Souza all had two aces a piece. Tabron had four blocks and 10 kills in the game, while Samantha Dolan led the team with 11. Gomez also had 11 digs for Christopher.
Though the score didn’t go in their favor, Baylers’ senior setter Allee Smallwood was impressed with the competition the Cougars brought to the game.
“Christopher was a pretty scrappy team,” she said. “They wouldn’t let a ball down.”
The Cougars kick off their regular season at 6:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Everett Alvarez at home.  Heading into the contest Calimpong was focused on one aspect his team needed to improve upon.
“(We need to work on the) serve-receive, serve-receive, serve-receive, serve-receive,” the Cougars coach said. “If we don’t control that serve from the other team and we don’t run our offense, it’s going to be a hard, hard night.”
The two teams will meet again at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 at San Benito.
“They came and brought it to us,” Calimpong said. “We’re just going to have to move the chess pieces around for when we see them in a few weeks.”