STOCKTON – In the fifth and deciding set Wednesday the Lathrop Spartans did not take the lead until the next-to-last point and then they scored the next point to take a thrilling 29-31, 25-17, 24-26, 25-19, 15-13 Valley Oak League volleyball match over host Weston Ranch.
With the score tied at 13 in the fifth set the Cougars (1-4 VOL, 2-6 overall) hit the ball long, giving Lathrop (2-5, 2-10) match point. The Spartans took advantage when Myani Thornton (eight kills) got a spike over the net that was too hot to handle.
“My heart was racing,” Thornton said of the last point. “I told myself I was going to get it in. I was thinking positive and that I had to go with the flow.
“It was competitive but I wanted to win – our team wanted to win.”
Malia Akers (10 kills, three blocks) helped Lathrop get to the fifth game when she got four kills in the 5-0 run that the Spartans ended the game on.
“I just try to stay positive,” Akers said. “I try to keep the team up and execute.”
Karina Chavez had 22 assists for Lathrop and Mary Cotton added four kills.
This was the second time this week the Spartans have gone the distance, losing a five-set match to Manteca on Monday.
“With two five-set games in a week I am getting gray hair and I am only 25,” Lathrop coach Heather Anderson said. “We had a lot of mistakes and to be able to overcome those mistakes was big. We put ourselves in tough situations tonight by making errors instead of putting pressure on them.
“We were able to pull it together and finish, which we have not been able to do. It feels good to compete.”
Danya Phillips notched two digs for the Spartans, but her biggest contribution was her scrappy play.
“Danya Phillips was huge coming off the bench tonight,” Anderson said. “And she was able to get a ton of touches – not necessarily blocks – to slow down their best hitter Amaya Finley toward the end.
“Finley is a great player overall. She really, really put a lot of pressure on us and she forced us to step up our game. We had to adjust our game plan to work around her and I have a lot of respect for her as a player – she’s great.”
Finley had 25 kills and five aces, with some of those kills coming from the back row.
“On the court you just have to play smarter and not harder,” Finley said. “You have to be aggressive, even in the back row.
“You have to want the ball and kill it, no matter where you are.”
Nayeli Moreno notched 25 assists for Weston Ranch. Nicka Mallari added eight kills and six digs, Senecia Patten four blocks and Aaliyah Peavey three aces.
Cougars coach Eddie Menzel was impressed with Lathrop’s defending of Finley.
“It was fun,” Menzel said. “Lathrop is an incredibly scrappy team. They defend really well. They had quite a few digs on quite a few clean hits that Amaya (Finley) had.”
Brittany Johnson had 30 digs for the Spartans with Joy Bautista (10 kills) adding 23 digs, Ayzher Ocsona 22 and Fasha Hayes (seven assists) 16.
With the lower-level victories Wednesday, Anderson believes this was the first sweep in program history.
“We work together as a program all spring and summer,” Anderson said. “So for us to sweep on all three levels in huge.
“For once we pulled it all together and finished.”
Weston Ranch 0
Krystal Tempra made 19 digs for the Spartans and Ana De La Garza chipped in 14 in the 25-21, 25-15 Lathrop win.
Jasmine Denning had four kills for Spartans.
Weston Ranch 1
Darlene Hoang racked up 8 aces for the Spartans in their thrilling 25-15, 16-25, 15-10 win.
Karina Perez had five kills for the Spartans.