Volleyball: Coach Samantha Hilvers leads Exeter to back-to-back league titles in first two seasons

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

EXETER – When Samantha Hilvers took over as head coach in 2016 the Monarchs had not won a league title since 2008. Now for the second straight season the Monarchs are Central Sequoia League (CSL) champions. Only this time its outright as Exeter swept the Kingsburg Vikings 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 25-19) giving them sole possession of first place.

“Talk about setting the bar high,” said Exeter head coach Samantha Hilvers. “This is what it means to play Monarch volleyball, we win, we win league titles and dominate.”

All game long the Monarch (24-12, 9-1) offense flowed effortlessly to the ball against the Vikings. But in the second set was firing on all cylinders.

Hilvers’ message to the team before that second set was for her players to go out and show everybody why they are the top team in the league.

Senior setter Kassi Stolz took that challenge to heart. Already having made her verbal commit to New Mexico State at the beginning of the season, Stolz was the main reason the Monarchs had their biggest set win of the evening.

Stolz ability to move the ball around to Exeter’s big hitters and set them up for near perfect kill opponents is off the charts. She seamlessly went from one end of the net to the other, fooling opposing defenses with the uncertainty of who was going to hit the ball. At times Stolz even sent the ball back to the middle row when Corinne Acosta was not on the front line.

“Stolz has done a good job of incorporating our outside and opposite hitters and not just keying in on that one person,” said Hilvers. “It’s hard for teams to keep up with us.”

Hilvers later added that is the reason most teams have a hard time finding a way to stop their offense.

Stolz may not be focusing in on a single player but the one attacker that is having the most success is Alexis Kirkman. Kirkman was the only Monarchs double digits in kills with 11 out of 17 attempts, which gave her a 64.7% kill percentage and 3.7 kills average per set. Kirkman also had two blocks.

Teagan Bryant and Madelyn Sweepe also had good nights for the Monarchs with nine and seven kills respectively.

The Monarchs finished off the season sweeping the Dinuba Emperors 3-0 (25-20, 25-9, 25-13).

Although, the Monarchs did not start off like the newly crowned CSL champions. Instead they let Dinuba, who had nothing to lose, take full control of the first set.

“We did not just open up the door for them, we blew an entire wall down for Dinuba,” said Hilvers.

Exeter at one point trailed the Emperors 17-11 in that first set. Then after closing the gap to one, 19-20 overtook the Emperors to win.

For the rest of the game the Exeter players took Dinuba, who was celebrating senior night, seriously after realizing was not going to be a push over.

Kirkman once again was the only Monarch with double digit kills having 13 on the night.

The title earned the Monarchs the second seed in the D-II playoffs. Exeter has a bye in the first round and awaits the winner of the seventh seed Monache Marauders and tenth seed El Diamante Miners.

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