East Union’s postseason hopes will now hinge on its next match at Central Catholic after dropping a four-set match (13-25, 18-25, 25-21, 18-25) to visiting Oakdale on Tuesday.
The Lancers put forth a spirited effort against the Valley Oak League champion and threatened to force a fifth set after Taylor Ward’s kill closed them in, 15-14. The superior Mustangs prevailed in the end, scoring 10 of the last 14 points and securing the victory — along with a second consecutive outright title — with Makkena Ryan’s stuff of Melissa King.
“We’re just fighting and crawling to make that third spot in the playoffs,” East Union coach Rich Posz said.
Only three VOL teams advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Oakdale (12-0 VOL, 19-10 overall) has already locked up the top spot with two matches remaining, while Manteca is in the driver’s seat to finish second thanks to its head-to-head edge over East Union. Manteca swept Central Catholic on Tuesday to avenge an earlier loss.
The Lancers (7-5, 15-8) and Central Catholic are tied for third going into their match in Modesto on Thursday. They’re in with a two-match sweep of the Raiders if they win. East Union ends the season next Tuesday, Nov. 3 against an emerging Sierra club.
“We still control our own destiny,” Posz said, “but (Central Catholic) is a tough place to play down there.”
East Union proved to be a tough out for Oakdale after dropping the first two sets. The Lancers twice led by as much as six, 10-4 and 11-5, in the third game. They played with better energy on the defensive end, keeping hard-hit balls alive in the back row while getting touches on spikes from Oakdale standout Lauren Ott (13 kills, 24 digs).
“I thought we had shifted the momentum,” Posz said. “We figured out our blocks and the timing was a little better, but they’re quick. Sometimes we had a tough time keeping up with their hitters.”
The late-season arrival of middle blocker Vanessa Cuellar couldn’t have come at a better time for the Lancers. She played her first match on Tuesday and made an immediate impact after entering in the second set. Cuellar finished with five kills and three aces.
“She was a difference maker, and hopefully she’ll make a difference for us down the road,” Posz said.
King tallied seven kills to lead East Union, and Mariah Jeffrey had four blocks. Alissa Burrola (four kills, 12 digs) and Haley England (12 digs, two kills, two aces) were other key contributors.