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Manteca falls in NorCal opener
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MADERA RANCHOS — Well rested and motivated, ninth-seeded Manteca started strong against No. 8 Liberty in the Buffaloes’ first CIF Northern California Regional Championships match in 27 years.

“I watched them warming up and thought we looked good, even after that long drive,” Manteca coach Kevin Bolding said.

Manteca returned home mulling its heartbreaking four-game loss in the Division IV opener. The Buffs — now 0-3 all-time in NorCal play — had leads in every set but were ultimately done in by unforced errors in the 25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 23-25 defeat.

“We killed ourselves with errors,” Bolding said. “It was set up nice for us, to be honest. We had our chances. There were just too many errors in hitting, passing, digging and serving — we covered all the bases.”

Liberty (29-7) was led by front-row stalwart Hannah Chase, but it was the Hawks’ all-around steady play that gave Manteca (24-10) trouble. The Central Section Division IV runner-up was able to creep its way back from a 15-8 deficit in the pivotal third set. 

Liberty will next travel to San Jose Saturday to meet top-seeded Presentation (16-21), which handily swept No. 16 Pierce, 25-17, 25-15, 15-10.

“Tonight wasn’t about pounding balls, it was about finding the spots,” Bolding said. “I thought they were pretty good fundamentally, but they’re not going to kill you hitting the ball, they’re going to keep it in and you have to be willing to play out the long rallies, be patient and pick and choose your spots with them.”

Payton Reis paced the Manteca attack with 19 kills, while Rhiannon Genilla added 16 to go with four aces. Setters Kaitlyn Morenzone (23 assists, 15 digs) and Kacy Bolding (18 assists, three aces) each rapped seven kills while providing their usual all-around contributions. Defensive specialist Emma Kadillak picked up 18 digs.

Although Manteca failed in its quest to register the program’s first NorCal victory, it was able to capture its first Valley Oak League title since 1991 and advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals for the first time since 2002.

The bar is sure to be set higher next season when Kacy Bolding, Morenzone and Reis enter their fourth year as varsity starters. 

“If you would have thought back to our time during the summer, there isn’t anybody who would have picked us to be in NorCals, let alone win our league,” coach Bolding said. “We had a great group and hopefully we can build off of that. This team set an expectation, which makes it tough for the next year, but this is where we want to be and hopefully we can get back there.”