Strathmore hands Woodlake its first league loss

Woodlake’s Jaqueline Mendoza-Galvez serves the ball against Strathmore. The Tigers’ loss to Strathmore was their first in league this season.(Kason Clark)

The visiting Tigers lost in four sets to the Spartans for their first loss in the East Sequoia League this fall; the Spartans meanwhile improved their league record to 5-1 to stay second in the standings

STRATHMORE – Heading into Thursday night, Oct. 12, Woodlake volleyball had been rolling with five straight wins and a 6-0 record in the East Yosemite League. And the Tigers had already defeated their upcoming opponent Strathmore in five sets earlier in the season.

But on their home court, the Strathmore Spartans stood tall as they won in four sets (25-16, 25-11, 16-25, 25-17) to hand Woodlake its first league loss of the year. After seeing her team avenge their loss from earlier in the year and end the Tigers’ undefeated start to league, Strathmore head coach Fidelina Camacho was proud of the Spartans.

“The girls came through. They’ve developed and grown as a team together and today, it was just a culmination of all their hard work,” Camacho said. “Today was phenomenal. They played their hearts out and they showed what they’re capable of.”

Many Spartans played well to hand Woodlake the loss, but Pearl Johnson had an especially strong night. In the win, she did it all for the Spartans as she led the team with ten kills, 15 assists and three blocks. But Johnson was more excited about defeating Woodlake than her stats at the end of the night.

“It felt really good to beat Woodlake, especially since they were the only team we had lost to in league this season,” Johnson said. “So winning this game is a really good feeling, especially since they were undefeated.”

While they suffered their first league loss of the season, the Tigers still hold first in the East Yosemite League standings with a 6-1 record and are 13-14 overall this year. But the Spartans are now right behind them with a 5-1 league record and an overall mark of 11-12 this fall.

From the jump, the Spartans demonstrated they were ready to battle the Tigers. In the first set, they took an early lead and continued to play well to make it a 16-12 game. They then went on a 9-4 run to win it, 25-16, for a 1-0 lead over the Tigers.

The Spartans stayed hot in the second set as they raced out to a 9-5 lead. They then dominated the rest of the way to win, 25-11, to extend their lead to 2-0 in the match. As the Spartans surged ahead of the Tigers, Johnson believes they were just clicking as a team to start the night.

“We were communicating really well and were covering well,” Johnson said. “Every time they would tip it, we would be there to cover it and we were just working as a team.”

But the Tigers struck back in the third. Early on, it looked like the Spartans would finish the night as they built themselves a 11-7 lead. But the Tigers clawed their way back to knot things up at 16-16. The Tigers then got hot with a 9-0 run to win the set, 25-16, to extend the night.

Looking to force a fifth set, the Tigers started strong in the fourth to force a 10-10 tie. But the Spartans took momentum back to pull ahead for a 21-17 lead. They then finished things off with a 4-0 run to win, 25-17, and end the match in four sets. After letting the previous contest slip away from them, the Spartans were determined to now finish the job.

“We just decided to get out of our heads and stop worrying about every mistake that we had made,” Johnson said. “We started focusing on all the good things we had done and so then we were able to get out of our heads and come back.”

After defeating the Tigers, the Spartans only have two more matches left in the regular season. With the year coming to a close, the Spartans will look to build off this win over Woodlake in order to finish the year with another trip to the postseason.

“This puts us in a good place,” Camacho said. “Our goal was to get to the playoffs again and currently where we stand, I believe that we will make it there again.”

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