MODESTO — Typically a routine match for Lathrop’s girls volleyball team on Tuesday, the Spartans could not help but feel a little pressure at the start of their Western Athletic Conference match at Johansen.
That’s because their first league championship was on the line. After a shaky start, Lathrop got into its groove and swept the Vikings 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 to secure at least a share of the crown with two matches remaining.
The Spartans’ final two regular-season matches are also on the road, and the title is solely in their possession with a win at Los Banos on Thursday or at Mountain House next Tuesday, Oct. 22. Defending WAC champion Beyer is in second place and has already been swept by the Lathrop (12-0 WAC, 20-4 overall).
“We made a lot of unforced errors in the first set, so I would say the nerves were there a little bit,” fourth-year Lathrop coach Heather Anderson said. “Plus, Johansen is a good team and they challenged us. Once we settled down we played strong and then it was business as usual.
“We know every match matters because of playoff rankings,” she added. “Even though we clinched tonight, we’re taking the next two very seriously.”
Johansen (6-6, 7-14) had no answer for reigning WAC Offensive Player of the Year Jahsita Fa’ali’i, who led the assault with 20 kills to go with 16 digs and two aces. Sydney Hanks (four kills, five blocks) and Ke’Mya Barnett (four blocks) were other key contributors at the net.
Jennifer Santillan anchored the attack with 28 assists. Libero Hailey Hunter tallied 16 digs and three aces.
Lathrop’s varsity club isn’t alone in its quest for the WAC title. The Spartans’ JV also clinched at least a co-championship Tuesday, while the freshmen are a win away from claiming a piece of theirs. All three levels are undefeated in WAC play.
“When I first took over the goal was to change the culture of the program, which took a couple of years,” Anderson said. “Once that got that going there was a lot of buy-in from the players, and it’s exciting to see the program grow from where it was.”
Le Grand 3, Ripon Christian 1
LE GRAND — Ripon Christian (10-1, 15-6) now has company atop the Southern League standings with Le Grand (10-1, 17-4) forcing a season split with its hard-fought, 25-13, 21-25, 25-16, 25-23 win.
For the Knights, Emily Van Groningen blasted a team-high 20 kills and three aces, Morgan Van Elderen registered six kills and nine assists, Natasha Smith also rapped six kills and Ariel Vander Woude distributed 20 assists.
Kimball 3, Sierra 0
TRACY — Sierra (2-9, 6-10) threatened to force a fourth set with the Valley Oak League’s second-place team but fell short, 16-25, 12-25, 23-25.
Natalie Dias paced the Timberwolves with 10 kills, Renee Hamilton had 10, Stella Brierly two along with two aces and Becca Thomason dished out 20 assists.
Grace Davis 21, Lathrop 5 (G)
Grace Davis 18, Lathrop 1 (B)
MODESTO — Amaya Terry, Alexa Ortiz-McCollum, Delaney Vega, Sophia Serrano and Hannah Steward each pitched in for the Lathrop girls, while Ashley Van Diggelen collected 11 saves at goal.
The lone scorer for Lathrop’s boys was Isaac Hernandez.
Lathrop 2, Johansen 0
Thracylie Acoba served seven aces and picked up 13 digs to highlight Lathrop’s 25-9, 25-14 sweep.
Camila De La Garza added seven assists and two aces, while Shelby Aquino fired three kills and two aces.
Kimball 2, Sierra 1
Sierra battled valiantly in its 18-25, 25-23, 7-15 loss. Leilani Fabian and Elaina Threet each hammered seven kills, while Erica Tovar had three.
Lathrop 2, Johansen 0
The Spartans served up a whipping 25 aces and cruised to a 25-13, 25-9 victory.
Irais Martinez led the barrage with four aces. Azul Maldanado added seven aces and three kills. Mailynn Lindsey contributed five aces and three kills.