Rangers win Division III South Regional championship

(Kason Clark)

Redwood volleyball defeats Del Norte in four sets at home to clinch the title; Rangers now advance to the state championship match this weekend to face Ripon Christian

VISALIA – With a spot in the state championship on the line, Del Norte and Redwood volleyball duked it out on Tuesday night, Nov. 14. In the South Regional final of the Division III State playoffs, the Redwood Rangers were looking for a win in their final home match of the season to advance in the playoffs.

The Rangers did not start the night strong as they dropped their first set to the visiting Nighthawks. But the Rangers rallied as they won the next three sets to win the South Regional, 3-1 (19-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-18). After all the hard work needed to secure the regional title, Redwood’s seniors could not contain their emotions.

“It means a lot,” Ava Ferguson said. “Every single one of us has worked so hard and I’m just so proud of every single one of us.”

“It’s so special,” Audrey Hyde said. “I feel like we’ve anticipated this since freshman year and it’s just so exciting.”

The Rangers got to win the regional title in front of their home crowd, who has been key to their success this fall. With their win over Del Norte, the Rangers finished the year with a 16-0 record on their home court.

“The atmosphere here is amazing,” Hyde said about the Rangers’ home-court advantage. “We love it here. It’s everything.”

Along with seeing her players celebrate the regional title, Redwood head coach Alana Montgomery was happy they won it in front of their home crowd that has supported them throughout the playoffs.

“Tonight’s win was not just for the girls but for the school and for our community,” Montgomery said. “We played in front of a full gym and the energy of a game like tonight’s is a once in a lifetime achievement.”

But the Rangers had to work hard for the title against Del Norte. The Nighthawks came out swinging as they flew out to a 16-8 lead to start the first set. The Rangers finally got going as they slowly climbed their way back into the game, but Del Norte held on to win, 25-19, for a 1-0 lead in the match.

After dropping the first game, the Rangers marched out to a 14-5 lead to start the second set. The Nighthawks climbed their way back to make it a game as they cut Redwood’s lead to 20-18. However, the Rangers finished strong with a 5-2 run to win, 25-20, to tie the match.

“We honestly just got a lot of energy and we knew we had it,” Ferguson said about the Rangers’ response in the second set. “We had our reasons why we started out rough and we changed those and changed the momentum of the game.”

Both teams then battled back and forth throughout the third set. After fighting to an 18-18 stalemate, the Nighthawks pulled ahead for a 23-22 lead to put themselves in position to win. But with their backs against the wall, the Rangers scored three straight points to win, 25-23, to take a 2-1 lead on the night.

Looking to win the regional title and secure their spot in the state championship, the Rangers jumped out to a 13-7 lead to start the fourth set. The Nighthawks tried to keep their season alive, but Redwood went on to win, 25-18, to win the match in four sets.

Next up for the Redwood Rangers will be the Division III State championship match at Santiago Canyon College. There, they will face Ripon Christian on a neutral court. As the Rangers get ready for their most important match of their season, they will look to keep doing what has carried them this far.

“We’ll work super hard in practice and we’ll have a bunch of energy for the state championship,” Ferguson said.

Regardless of what happens in the state title match, Montgomery looks forward to seeing the Redwood Rangers represent the Central Valley on the biggest stage in California.

“We’re excited for the state match and to represent the Central Section in the State Tournament,” Montgomery said. “That’s all the motivation we need.”

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