East Union coach Kim Brooks urged her setter to ramp up the pace of the attack against host Sierra on Thursday.
Kassandra Avila, a senior forced to play the position for the first time because of an injury to a teammate, already had some good connections with Vanessa Cuellar on quick sets up the middle, but at one point early in game 4 she attempted a shoot set that zipped past her intended target on the outside and over the scorer’s table.
“She has a ridiculous amount of power,” Brooks said after the four-set win (18-25, 25-9, 25-20, 25-12). “If her power isn’t going up it’s going to go out, and as soon as she fired it out I said, ‘Let’s just go back up.’”
Laughter ensued on East Union’s side of the court after the awkward play, one it could afford to have on a night mostly dominated by the Lancers. They were still ahead 9-3 in the final game and continued to roll past their rivals.
East Union (3-2 Valley Oak League, 3-4 overall) was without standout middle blocker Sophia Williams, who is nursing a sore wrist. The versatile Cuellar moved from setter to the middle, and Avila took over Cuellar’s spot as the quarterback of the club.
“She has never set before but has always had amazing hands and is always all over the court,” Brooks said of Avila, who finished with 13 assists. “It got a little bit confusing at times but they handled the adjustment really well.”
She also credited Cuellar for helping to keep things in order. An outside hitter for East Union last year, led all players with 11 kills. In the pivotal third game, she punctuated the match’s longest rally with a jarring quick-set kill that gave the Lancers a 23-19 lead. Cuellar then clinched the game with an overpass kill.
“She knows how to do everything,” Brooks said. “She can set really well, she can swing block, she knows out to read and she keeps our girls in line as far as rotations go. She’s a very important asset to the team.”
Ragan Fowzer contributed eight kills to the Lancers attack, while Aquetzalli Ramirez aided the defense with nine digs.
Libero LaEssa Pierce tallied 14 digs, but her biggest contribution came from the service line. She had serving runs of eight and six points in games 2 and 4, racking up eight of her total 10 aces in the process. Pierce had four of those aces in succession during her fourth-set rally, but she served into the net to end both runs.
With Pierce small in stature, Brooks said the power from her serves “comes out of nowhere.”
“It’s just this adrenaline going through me,” Pierce said. “I just focus on my serve and focus on getting it over the net. With the adrenaline the power just comes.”
Sierra (0-5, 4-8) overcame a 12-6 deficit in the opening set, scoring nine unanswered points to jump ahead, 17-14. Vanessa Benham put the game away for the Timberwolves with a demonstrative kill, but it was all East Union from there.
“We lost our momentum,” Sierra coach Trinity Johnson said. “We got a little bit ahead of ourselves. I think we just got inside our heads and couldn’t get out of it.”
Benham led Sierra with seven kills, four digs and three blocks. Lindsey Walljasper chipped in four kills and two blocks. Genni Hammarstrom had nine digs.
East Union 2, Sierra 0
Jenna Bolton and Teresa Benham were standouts for Sierra, but the visiting Lancers prevailed, 25-22, 25-16.
Sierra 2, East Union 0
Sierra swept 25-18, 25-15 behind Stella Brierly’s six aces and five assists.
Felicia LaQuaglia contributed four assists, two aces and a kill. Kayla Riley turned in two aces and two assists.