“It feels good to be a part of this,” said Maya Tabron, one of the team’s terrific outside hitters and a University of Colorado commit. “For the seniors, it could’ve been our last game, so it was nice we were able to push through.”
The Cougars dropped Game 1 in somewhat shocking fashion to Wilcox, which finished in second place in the Santa Clara Valley’s lower El Camino Division. The culprit was simple: nerves.
“It was just nerves being out there for the first time in the playoffs and having a real chance to go all the way,” Tabron said.
Coach Ramon Rodriguez and assistant coach Kevin Bruce have helped guide the team to the most successful season in program history, and they didn’t seem worried after the team dropped the opening set.
“A lot of our girls are new to CCS, so it was just working out the first-game jitters,” said Bruce, who coaches the CHS boys team in the spring. “It felt good to come back and win the next three (sets).”
Sara Kruger, a junior middle blocker and Division I commit, made her presence felt as usual, starting in Game 2. Kruger accumulated four kills and seven blocks—yes, seven—in Game 2 alone to help completely turn the tide of the match. Tabron also made a huge impact, with four kills and three blocks as the Cougars leveled the match at one game apiece with an easy 25-10 victory. It was more of the same in Game 3, as Tabron put down some thunderous kills and Kruger some stuff blocks.
“Maya does what she does and is great, and Sara really energizes the team when she gets going,” Bruce said. “She really pumps up everyone else because any time you can get those blocks at the net, it lifts the team up.”
Allison Duross made an incredible dig from the back row late in Game 3, with the ball going over the net and landing in an open space on the Wilcox side. At this point, the Christopher players were all smiles, relaxed and had established a rhythm, energized by their vibrant home crowd.
“We had a big crowd out today and it was exciting to play with them behind us,” Tabron said. “At first we put a little pressure on ourselves to play great in front of everybody. But once we started to get on a roll, play with more consistency and make less mistakes, we were able to pull through. … (After we lost Game 1) the coaches pretty much told us it’s on our side of the net, that it was our mistakes. We had to fix them rather than let the other team push us and get ahead.”
Kennedy Bretz, Senna Kolagotla, Kat Javier and Sydney Ogden also played key roles in Tuesday’s win. Bretz pretty much did it all by setting, hitting and blocking, while Kolagotla provided solid sets from Game 2 on.
“Our setters outside that first set did a good job,” Bruce said. “They’re placing balls in hittable spots and that is what we need. Our outsides like Maya and Allison have been our rocks and consistent for us all year.”
Bruce said Javier, the team’s libero, has also elevated her play in recent weeks. It’s been a dream season for the Cougars, who went 12-0 in winning the Pacific Coast League’s Gabilan Division. They dropped only five games in the process in a division that had only two other teams besides Christopher finish with winning records this season. Three of the four teams left in the CCS Division II playoff field are from the Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay Division, including Woodside, which finished just 4-10 in the Bay—sixth place out of eight teams—but beat No. 3 Presentation in the quarterfinals Tuesday. To win a section championship, the Cougars will have to go through teams from the PAL Bay Division.
“We can definitely see ourselves going all the way, but consistency is one of the things we need to focus on,” Bruce said. “We’re kind of up and down in that we pull away and let teams back in. When we start facing higher caliber teams, we can’t do that or they’ll take advantage of that.”
The Cougars are two wins away from completing a dream season of winning a CCS title. They know they’ll need to be at their absolute peak to get it done.