Alyssa Burch and the rest of the Manteca High volleyball team couldn’t mask their excitement after notching the clinching point.
The Buffaloes celebrated a commanding 25-22, 25-16, 25-18 victory at intra-city rival East Union’s Dalben Center. The Valley Oak League season officially began Thursday night, but for the girls in green it meant much more.
East Union (0-1, 6-9 overall) had claimed seven of the previous meetings with Manteca, a young but experienced squad that hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2008.
“It’s always nerve-wracking coming into the first league game, and it being against East Union is such a big deal for us,” Burch said. “We’ve been working so hard since the summer with this game in mind. It has been a couple years since we’ve beaten them. I know for me it’s my first (win) against them so it feels great.”
The 6-foot middle hitter led all players with nine kills to go with three blocks. She often worked off quick sets from Beth Aschenbrenner (27 assists), but it was Manteca’s variation in its attack that helped it gain separation in key stretches of each game.
Fellow captain Mildred Perez contributed seven kills and five blocks, while Morgan Miramontes added seven kills, eight digs and three aces.
“We’ve been trying to switch it up along the net because it just (keeps) the blockers on the other side (guessing),” Burch said. “Beth is amazing with her jump set. They’re thinking it’s going to be a tip and it ends up being an easy hit.”
East Union was on the defensive for much of the match as it struggled to consistently make passes. Different story for Manteca (1-0, 3-3), which had three players — Melissa Hansen (15 digs), Taylor Bays (14), Jasmine Basuil (10) — rack up at least 10 digs.
The Lancers’ largest lead of the match was at 10-7 in the first set.
“It just seem like we couldn’t take control of the match,” East Union coach Rich Posz said. “When we were ahead we didn’t play aggressive enough to do that.
“They served us tough,” he added, “but we have been working a lot on serve receive and passing. That is probably what’s most disappointing about tonight. We couldn’t make the transition from defense to offense.”
Edmi Lopez and Deja Guzman had eight and five kills, respectively, to pace the Lancers. Melissa King set 16 assists, and Stephanie Jauregui turned in eight digs.
It was a promising start to league for the Buffaloes, but second-year head coach Kevin Bolding said it is important for them to build off the win. Next week they face an improved Weston Ranch squad and perennial VOL contender Oakdale in what is expected to be a tight race for the conference championship and its three postseason berths.
“I don’t know if it was us playing East Union or the tough teams we played in the preseason, but we played our best match tonight,” Bolding said. “The thing is we still have to come out every night and play like that because we have some good teams in our league.”
Kimball 3, Weston Ranch 1
In Stockton, the Cougars (0-1, 4-2) were unable to hold onto an early lead in a 25-23, 20-25, 11-25, 26-28 loss to Kimball (1-0, 2-9).
Brijanae Moore fired 12 kills for Weston Ranch. Victoria Gulley collected six digs, had Elizabeth Alexander four blocks and Jazelle Pereña handed out eight assists.
Ripon Christian 3, Delhi 0
In Ripon, the Knights (1-0, 8-4) team began its defense of the Southern League championship with a sweep of winless Delhi (0-9), 25-6, 25-16, 28-26.
Setter Elisabeth Regusci registered 21 assists and six aces to lead RC. Dani Erdelatz was the kill leader with seven, Lauren DeVries had four blocks and Rachel Faure picked up 19 assists.
East Union 2, Manteca 1
The Squires raced away for the win in the third and final game, ultimately winning 25-19, 19-25, 15-6.
Vanessa Cuellar anchored the offense with seven assists, with LaEssa Pierce and Kassandra Avil finishing with seven and six digs, respectively.