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Atkins comes through in pivotal Game 3
Sierra High’s Alysia Atkins tries to place her tip wide of the blocks set by Manteca’s Jimi Guibor (15) and Dallas Mould in a crosstown Valley Oak League match Tuesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
There were several stretches during Tuesday’s Sierra-Manteca volleyball match when the two teams would exchange unforced errors, essentially handing each other free points.

“It was almost like (it will come down to) whoever makes the most mistakes,” Manteca coach Tim Horning said.

But in some critical moments of the match, none more than late in the pivotal third game, it was senior Alysia Atkins and the rest of the host Sierra Timberwolves who made the plays. Sierra ended up winning in four — 25-23, 20-25, 27-25, 25-13.

In that third game, Manteca led 21-20 before Atkins pounded two straight kills. The struggling (0-4 Valley Oak League, 1-8 overall) Buffaloes had two chances to put it away with game point in hand (24-23, 25-24). Atkins had one more kill to tie it at 25, and Alison Armstrong’s well-placed tip was the finishing blow for Sierra (2-2, 5-3)

Atkins was the Timberwolves’ tone-setter, leading them with 10 kills, two blocks, three aces and 31 digs. Chelsea Bereta added five kills and 33 digs; Gabby Olmo finished with 10 assists, 15 digs and two aces; and Sarah Konecny chipped in four kills and 28 digs.

“(Atkins) had a big hand it in, but it was definitely a team effort,” Sierra coach Trinity Johnson said. “I’m proud of them for being able to come back from that. They showed a tremendous amount of fight.”

Sierra also had to gut out the first game after taking an early 12-6 lead and remaining ahead late, 19-15. Manteca charged back late thanks to a series of hitting miscues from Sierra; five straight went for Buffalo points and a 20-19 lead. But the next serve went short to knot it back up, and the rest was all Sierra.

Atkins recorded back-to-back aces, and Michelle Arroyo iced it with a kill.

“We weren’t putting the ball away and we weren’t scoring the points the way I would like them to,” Horning said. “Sierra gave us a lot of points, and to not capitalize on that is heartbreaking.”

And Sierra certainly could have made things easier for itself. Four of the last five points scored in Game 2 were gifts from the front row, with hitting attempt sailing long or hitting net. Manteca middle blocker Dallas Mould (three kills, four blocks) did smack one down to make it 24-20.

“I wouldn’t say easier, but it could have been a lot better in general,” Johnson said. “We were making a lot of stupid mistakes. It was like we were back to the beginning of the season.”

The difference goes back to the emotionally-charged third game. While Sierra finally hit its stride, Manteca couldn’t match its rival’s intensity. The Timberwolves shot out to a 7-2 lead after Atkins posted the last of her aces, and she again took over late to help clinch it. Atkins was in on four of Sierra’s final six points of the match with three kills and a block.

“They just fell apart,” Horning said. “There wasn’t any communicating in the fourth game. It just took a lot out of them.”

Jimi Guibor paced Manteca with five kills. Abigail Rosas turned in seven digs, Breanne Hatfield two aces, Tara Dadasovich six assists and Jessica Reeder five assists.

“It’s not like we’re not working on these things on practice. The girls are working hard, but it doesn’t seem to translate into a game situation. We’re just in a funk.”

Manteca 2, Sierra 0
The visiting Buffaloes started out in full command before squeaking out the sweep, 25-13, 25-22.

Sierra was led by Valerie Nestor’s four kills and two blocks. Stevie Leeman (six digs), Sarah Gullett (seven assists) and Iyana Hughes (eight service points, ace) were other contributors for the T’Wolves.

Sierra 2, Manteca 0
Gianna Lenoci did her damage from the back row, finishing with 14 service points (four aces) and five digs to help Sierra improve to 3-1 in league, 7-1 overall.

Kristyn DeBrouwer picked up eight digs, and Allison Walljasper added three kills and a block. Claudia Hunter provided good play on defense and strong setting.