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Seniors honored in must-win contest for Buffaloes
Manteca Highs Samantha Morris (9) and Myklyn Balmut (13) try to block the spike of Lathrops Briana Lopez in the first game of Thursdays Valley Oak League match at Winter Gym. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca High’s volleyball team celebrated senior night at Winter Gymnasium with a three-game sweep (25-10, 25-12, 25-21) over Lathrop on Thursday while improving its chances of extending the season beyond next week.

“It was a win we needed,” said Manteca High varsity volleyball coach Tim Horning, who has a team goal of finishing at .500 along with a playoff berth.

But in order to do so, the Buffaloes (6-7, 12-16 overall) must get past Kimball in Tuesday’s Valley Oak League finale.

Against the Spartans (1-12, 2-16), Manteca capitalized on errors while delivering key aces from the service line.

“We had 11 aces in a three-game match – that’s pretty good,” Horning said.

 Jimi Guibor, who was one of seven Manteca seniors honored in the pregame event, had five aces, including a pair during a crucial stretch of the decisive third game.

The Buffaloes were down 17-10 after Lathrop’s Cherubine Consul dropped in one of her team-high seven kills. But then the Spartans began to unravel, committing two out-of-bound hits.

Manteca rallied, with senior middle-hitter Myklyn Balmut serving up three straight aces and Julia Martinez and Erin Kennedy both scoring on spikes.

Briana Lopez kept Lathrop in the game with a kill down the stretch. She also led her team in aces with three.

Tied 20-20, Nicole Magnuson put the Buffaloes up for good with an ace. She served up the final five points including another ace. Samantha Morris scored the match point on a no-look tip shot.

For Lathrop, the loss capped a tough week.

“We lost both of our middle blockers for the season and had to move two of our outside hitters into those positions,” said Spartans coach Nicole Unrein.

Those changes may have contributed to some of the miscues in the first game. Couple that with six service faults by Lathrop.

“We capitalized on those hitting errors,” Horning said.

Balmut had two of her game-high seven kills midway through the opener, putting Manteca ahead, 16-10.

Guibor’s ace along with kills by Kennedy and Brittina Burch helped put the game away for the Buffaloes.

Manteca also controlled the second game, taking advantage of the Lathrop errors.

Morris finished the match with 18 assists for the Buffaloes. Jamie DeRosa, Jessica Howard, and Magnuson had four digs each. Martinez chipped in with six kills.

For Lathrop, Monica Brambila had five kills.

“I thought we did OK despite all of the changes (in the lineup),” Unrein said.