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Sierra sets pace in hunt for first VOL championship
Manteca-Sierra girls volleyball
Zoe Kossart, from left, Abigail Chapman (11), Alexandra Chapman (6), Rebecca Thomson and Jenna Dalen (4) celebrate an early point during Sierra’s four-game win over visiting Manteca on Thursday. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Sierra has firmly established itself as the team to beat in the Valley Oak League, knocking off both co-champions this week in four games.

On Thursday, the Timberwolves were mostly in command against rival Manteca, winning 25-11, 25-15, 26-28, 25-15 in front of a lively crowd. Zoe Kossart put away the clinching point with her team-high 15th kill, and the student section stormed the court to celebrate with the players.

Manteca-Sierra girls volleyball
Manteca’s Jessica Almeida (5) and Carsyn Van Zant try to block Sierra’s Zoe Kossart spike. - photo by Wayne Thallander
Sierra (3-0 VOL, 12-1 overall) does not own a league volleyball team in the near-30 years of its existence, but the 2022 T’wolves are poised end the drought. They opened league last week with a sweep of Oakdale before sinking Central Catholic — two other perennial contenders.

“They have very big goals,” Sierra coach Kim Ellis said. “Sierra volleyball has always kind of struggled, so for them it’s not just about winning or having a good season — they want to leave a legacy. They’re working very hard to do it. They’re very focused and very driven.”

Manteca (1-2, 8-6), rebuilding after losing 10 seniors to graduation, was staggered at the outset but able to inject some drama into the match during the thrilling third set.

Michaela Singh (17 kills, two blocks) started the game with a kill for the Buffaloes’ first lead of the match. They later had game point at 24-20 but nearly let it slip away. Sierra rallied for five straight points, getting two services aces from Rebecca Thomson (38 assists, five aces, four kills) and a kill from Kossart.

Singh helped swing momentum back in the Buffaloes’ favor with a kill and a set-securing ace.

“Our team has had some roller coasters, so far — we’ve had an injury and then a transfer,” Manteca coach Robin Chandler said. “We’re kind of just now getting into our groove.

“In that third set we tried a brand-new rotation and the girls did phenomenal with that. We’re trying new things and still getting things figured out, but they do have a good squad and you can tell they’ve been playing together for a really long time. They’ve got some talent over there, for sure.”

Sierra set the tone with a 10-0 run to start the match. Thomson served nine straight points with help from the team’s front-row standouts. Twins Abigail (two kills, two blocks) and Alexandra Chapman (four kills, five blocks) each had kills during the run and even combined for a block. Kossart also had an early highlight, landing a kill immediately after having her initial spike dug by Riley Slikker.

“It was good to come out the gate strong because this was a nerve-wracking game with lots of fans and lots of pressure on both sides,” Thomson said. “To come out the gate and have that comfortable lead meant everything.”

Manteca traded blows with the Timberwolves in the beginning of the game 2 but was done in by three service errors. Sierra led by as much as 11, 19-8.

In the fourth set, Courtney Washburn (seven kills, two blocks) punctuated a rally with a kill to close Manteca in, 7-6. Sierra pulled away from there, going on a 14-6 run capped by Alexandra Chapman’s tip.

Sophia Marian added six kills to the Timberwolves’ attack, while Jenna Dalen led the defense with 30 digs.

Jessica Almeida had 22 assists for Manteca, and Nicole Ayala contributed 10 digs.

The Buffaloes host Central Catholic next Tuesday in a clash between the reigning co-champs, while Sierra welcomes its other cross-town rival East Union.

“Now that we’ve seen the top three teams, I think we continue with how we’re playing,” Thomson said. “There’s only up from here, we keep on improving. We’ll see these teams again and we know how they play. We can use that and adjust our play. Playing these competitive teams is really challenging us getting us ready for playoffs, which I am very excited for.”

 

Junior varsity

Sierra 2, Manteca 0

The host Timberwolves came from behind late in the second set to lock down the 25-12, 25-22 sweep.

Cianna Leonardo keyed the victory with seven assists and four aces. Ellie Denny finished with nine digs, while Amaya Maciel turned in three kills and three aces. Sabrina Alvarado also served three aces, and Amari Currey collected three kills.

Manteca was paced by Jayana Dias’ 12 aces and five digs. Eras Tuddao had six digs and two aces. Sophia Nussbaumer chipped in four digs, two blocks and two aces.

 

Freshman

Sierra 2, Manteca 1

Sierra (1-2 VOL, 6-6 overall) squeaked out the 26-24, 19-25, 15-13 victory

Maitland Kohoutek led the T’wolves with six kills, and Ashley De Belen added five. Danica Cesante dished out 11 assists, and Izzy Gillette collected eight digs.

Saniyah Anthony pounded seven kills. Talia Shelbourne amassed seven aces and five kills. Riley Ward and Alisha James pitched in six and seven assists, respectively.