For three and-a-half games on Thursday night, I felt sorry for the Rancho Cucamonga High School volleyball team. The Cougars fought their guts out, but running uphill each and every game would eventually wear them out, right?
Turns out it only made them stronger. Once Rancho Cucamonga finally seized the momentum, it surged ahead in the one game where an early lead is the most essential – the one to 15 instead of 25. Rancho coasted downhill to a 15-8 Game 5 win to steal the match from a Los Osos team that swept it in the final of Los Osos’ own tournament a few weeks ago. The game scores were 19-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20, 15-8.
Los Osos leads’ in the first four games: 17-11, 15-10, 16-11, 15-10. The Cougars recovered to win two of those, including the pivotal Game 4 by winning 15 of the last 20 points. After not taking a lead until 19-18 in both Game 2 and Game 4, Rancho won the first five points of Game 5 in surging to an 8-3 lead.
Becca Garrigues, who had 19 kills, closed each game Rancho won with a kill. But it was the Jenna Wilson Cougars’ coach Brandon Blevins credited with the largest impact on the game.
Los Osos’ Sacha McConnel, a hard-hitting 6-foot-3 senior, was absolutely lighting the place up until Blevins moved the towering Wilson inside to provide more of a blocking presence. After 15 kills in the first three games, McConnel has three in the last two games combined, all the while struggling with keeping the ball from sailing long.
“You could see Sacha started looping her hits long,” Blevins said. “I moved Jenna off her in the fourth game but by then the damage had been done.”
I feel sure the Baseline League race is far from over, but Rancho is happy to be on top even if its early. They’re obviously pretty good running downhill.
“We’ve been knocking on the door with Los Osos and Upland the last couple of years,” Blevins said. “It’s early in league but this is a good place to be.”
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