Exeter volleyball advances to Central Valley championship

Exeter’s Madison Gonzalez spikes the ball against Centennial. With the win in the semifinals, Exeter improved to 31-10 on the year and 11-1 at home this season. (Kason Clark)

Monarchs take care of business with a 3-0 victory over Centennial in the section semifinals; Exeter will now face Bakersfield Christian in the championship match at home on Nov. 2

EXETER – With a spot in the Division 2 Central Section championship on the line, Exeter volleyball took care of business in its semifinal match against Centennial.

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, the Exeter Monarchs gutted out a tough 3-0 win (25-16, 26-24, 26-24) over the Golden Hawks at home in Smith Gym. It was a hard-fought sweep for the Monarchs, but it was enough to get them to the championship match.

“The girls played hard and they gritted it out,” Exeter head coach Samantha Hilvers said. “It definitely was not an easy match. They had to overcome some things, which they did as they played really well together and they fought hard.”

It was the Monarchs’ third straight victory to begin the postseason. They began the playoff run with a 3-0 win (25-15, 25-21, 25-18) over Tulare Western last week. The Monarchs then defeated Garces Memorial, 3-1, (25-22, 22-25, 25-16, 25-21) in the quarterfinals to make it to the semifinal.

“We never say die and we just keep going,” Hilvers said about the Monarchs’ postseason run. “It’s not over until it’s over and we control what we can control. They’re doing that, so that’s all I can ask for.”

The Monarchs exhibited that resilient attitude in their first set against Centennial. The Golden Hawks started the night strong as they took an 8-5 lead to start the contest. But the Monarchs battled back to knot things up at 12-12.

The Monarchs then took control as they ended the game on a 13-4 run to win it, 25-16. After a slow start to the night, outside hitter Madison Gonzalez believes the Monarchs found some energy and rode it all the way to the victory and the 1-0 lead in the match.

“We just stayed excited and kept our energy up the whole time,” Gonzalez said.

Looking to tie the match, the Golden Hawks did not let the second set slip away from them. After a 14-14 tie halfway through the second, the Golden Hawks went on a 7-3 run to take a 21-17 lead. The Monarchs kept with it, but Centennial continued to play well to take a 24-22 lead.

But like they had done all postseason, the Monarchs did not give up as they went on a 4-0 run to win it, 26-24, for a 2-0 lead on the night. Down the stretch, the Monarchs used their home-court advantage and momentum to steal the contest from the Golden Hawks. 

“The student section was helping us and our energy and momentum was helping us,” Gonzalez said.

Needing a win to keep their season alive, the Golden Hawks played well in the third set and were able to eke out a 19-18 lead over the Monarchs. But the Monarchs stuck around as the teams exchanged points en route to a 24-24 stalemate.

And just like the previous contest, the Monarchs finished strong with two straight points for the 26-24 victory that finished off the match. With the win, the Monarchs are now 31-10 with an 11-1 record at home. They have now won seven straight matches and they will be looking to stay hot as they head into their section championship.

“We’re going to try to control our side of the net,” Hilvers said about staying hot. “If we can limit our errors and play aggressively, it makes it difficult for anybody that’s on the other side of the net. So we’re just going to focus on us and take care of what we can do.”

The Monarchs will get to host the Division 2 Central Section championship at Smith Gymnasium on Thursday, Nov. 2. The Monarchs will host Bakersfield Christian, who just beat No. 1 seed Stockdale on the road. As the Monarchs get ready for the championship match, they are looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a Central Valley title.

“We’re super excited,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t wait because it’s going to be so fun.”

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