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Playoff-hopeful Cougars on the prowl after sweep
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Melanie Amen of Weston Ranch sends the free ball over the net as Sierra middle blocker Valerie Nestor looks to get a hand on it. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

STOCKTON — Weston Ranch is the last team remaining in the hunt for a postseason berth among Manteca Unified School District teams.

The Cougars stayed alive with their commanding 25-20, 25-16, 25-19 sweep of Sierra, which had its playoff hopes dashed on Monday. The Sac-Joaquin Section has gone away from its power-ratings system to determine qualifying teams. Now, the top three clubs in the Valley Oak League advance along with any other that finishes with a .500 or better conference record.

At 5-7 (6-10 overall), Weston Ranch must win its final two matches to make its first-ever postseason appearance. It won’t be easy with a match at first-place Oakdale up next.

“It’s been a goal of ours, and the girls are fully aware of it because we’ve talked about it,” said Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer. “Now the girls have to take care of our business and not worry about what anyone else is doing.”

It was a surprising letdown for Sierra (4-8, 4-10), which edged the Cougars in five games in their previous contest. The Timberwolves have a more favorable schedule to end the season than Weston Ranch, though third-place Kimball and rival East Union are no gimmies.

Weston Ranch never trailed in the rematch, and during pivotal rallies it was the squad that came through with the big point. Senior outside hitter Candisse Griffin, who led all players with eight kills, was usually in the mix during these moments, and it was her jarring spike that ended the match.

“It was nice to be able to redeem ourselves,” Griffin said. “The first time we played them we didn’t communicate very well. Tonight we played with focus and limited our mistakes. We really want to make the playoffs so we’re playing our hardest.”

Sierra had trouble handling Weston Ranch’s serves for several stretches. The Cougars tallied 14 aces, a big number for a three-set match, with Audreanna Bigornia leading the way with six. Other contributors were: Melanie Amen (4 kills), Aolani Etu (15 assists), Niki Rayray (5 digs) and Alex Marapao (6 digs).


Weston Ranch 2, Sierra 1

The host Cougars came from behind to win 22-25, 25-20, 15-9.

Leading Sierra were Carolina