Monarch volleyball rolls into playoffs

Exeter wins first two playoff games against San Joaquin Memorial and Arroyo Grande

EXETER – Playoff success is nothing new for the Exeter Monarchs. They’ve won a playoff game in all five seasons under head coach Samantha Hilvers, including two Division II Valley championships and are back at it this season. Last week’s home wins against San Joaquin Memorial and Arroyo Grande set up last night’s semi-final match against Stockdale, with the winner earning a trip to the championship game.

Last night’s game occurred after press time but results can be found at @euhsathletics on Instagram or on the team’s MaxPreps page.

According to Hilvers, her team had mentally gone into playoff mode during the final two games of the regular season. They swept Kingsburg on senior night before sweeping Dinuba in the regular season finale, and the momentum carried into last Tuesday’s playoff opener against San Joaquin Memorial. They won 3-1 which set up Thursday’s exciting finish against the Arroyo Grande Eagles.

After a nearly three-hour drive from the Central Coast into Exeter, the Eagles met a fired-up Monarch squad that dominated the first set. Exeter won 25-17 to take the early lead but the margin of victory quickly began to shrink.

“I think we caught Arroyo Grande on their heels. I don’t think they necessarily knew what to expect playing us,” Hilvers said. “So I think we kind of had the upper hand on them for that first set. The second set they started to pick it up and dial in a little bit more.”

After Exeter narrowly won the second set by two points, the Eagles made some key adjustments to their lineup. They changed their outside hitter and libero which seemed to make a big impact on the game. They rallied two straight wins to send the game to five sets.

Add in a few controversial calls by the referees that went in favor of the Eagles in the third and fourth sets and now suddenly the Monarchs were the ones on their heels. The final set began with another questionable call that went in favor of Arroyo Grande who had all the momentum on their side. With their season on the line, the young Monarch team was faced with a defining moment. They rallied in the final set which came down to the wire as they held on for the tight 15-13 win which sent them to the semi-finals.

Junior Hannah Baker has been a star all season and she left her mark on both sides of the net with 28 kills and 17 digs. Defensively, Exeter had several other players step up and contribute at least 14 digs: Bella Renteria, Haven Rich, Madisson Woods and Avery Barber who led the way with 20. Barber also contributed 45 assists as she continuously to put her teammates in the best positions to wreak havoc on the Arroyo Grande defense.

Despite what happened in last night’s game against Stockdale, the Monarchs may have a chance to compete for a State title. If they defeated Stockdale, they’ll automatically be entered into the CIF So-Cal Regional playoffs. If they lost last night, they’ll have an outside chance of making it depending on the final rankings after the Valley championship games are complete.

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