Exeter eliminated in opening rounds of girls volleyball

No. 15-seeded Knights boot second-seeded Monarchs from the Division II playoffs in three sets

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

EXETER – In the last three seasons, the Monarchs have made the state tournament only to have a first-round exit. Exeter entered the playoffs strong having won their second straight CIF Division II Valley Championship three days earlier which earned them the No. 2 seed in the state bracket, but that did little to prepare them for the tougher competition they would face. In their opening match on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Exeter was upset by the No. 15-seeded Bishop Montgomery Knights 3-0 (27-29, 20-25, 19-25).

“There were certain times when we played well and then there were times when we weren’t putting the ball down,” Exeter head coach Samantha Hilvers said.

The first set, which featured six extra points, was the longest the Monarchs (35-11, 12-0) had played all season. The second set has been the Monarchs’ weakest set all year, but when Exeter lost in the first set it resulted in nine of 11 losses this season, all of which were by sweep. What made this set so much more demoralizing is that the Monarchs had to fight back from a deficit to force the extra points.

“It is always emotional to lose a long first set like that,” Hilvers said.

While the Monarchs may have had their opportunities to pull the first set out against the Knights (20-8, 6-1), Exeter had even more in the second and third. Gaining substantial leads in each set, the Monarchs could not finish.

The Knights did a good job of limiting Exeter’s top outside hitter Corinne Acosta to just 10 kills. While her play may still be affected by an ankle sprain she suffered during the latter part of the season, she has been more than capable of producing big time points when Exeter needed them.

Exeter’s other outside hitter Teagan Bryant and emerging middle hitter Julia Nelsen stepped up to card 13 and six kills respectively, but it was not enough against the Knights’ front line who controlled the net almost the entire game.

Hilvers’ task over this offseason has changed from last year, and not only in the positions she will need to fill. Exeter will undergo a philosophy change, too. The Monarchs are going to lose three strong players at two key positions: their two best outside hitters in Acosta and Bryant, and their libero Katelyn Kirkman.

“[Acosta and Bryant] are huge on the offensive side of the court and [Kirkman] is the biggest defensive specialist in the league,” Hilvers said.

Hilvers doesn’t want her team putting the valley championship up on a pedestal anymore. Having been there for three years and winning back-to-back, she now wants her team to look forward to a run at state.

“We put so much pressure on valley, but there is a whole other level,” Hilvers said. “We need to persevere and push through to that level.”

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