After a stunning first-set loss Wednesday night, Sierra tied things up in the second but was headed for a loss in the third when Becca Thomson toed the serve line.
After not leading the entire game, trailing 20-22 and having trailed 14-5, Thomson reeled off six consecutive service points behind two of her six aces on the night and helped catapult the Timberwolves to a thrilling 23-25, 27-25, 25-22, 25-19 win, giving Sierra its first-ever Valley Oak League title and doing so with a perfect league record.
“When the pressure is on I find that I serve better,” Thomson said. “So it was nice to go back to that line and the only thing I would see was the other side of the court.
“Honestly, it was so much fun. My team was encouraging me the whole time which made it that much easier.”
Thomson was pivotal in the attack for Sierra (10-0 VOL, 23-4 overall). The stellar senior dished out 42 assists and was all over the floor with 19 digs.
Playing libero for the Timberwolves, Jenna Dalen tallied 18 digs and an ace.
“Tonight was a really big game for us because Manteca has been our rival for a very long time and coming into this year we had never beat them,” Dalen said. “But tonight we beat them for the second time this year.”
After that stellar comeback in the third game, Sierra found itself in a 15-15 tie in the fourth set when the Timberwolves went on an 8-1 run behind two consecutive kills by Sophia Marian (10 kills, six digs, two blocks) before closing out the night and the regular season with a 25-19 win.
“Sometimes we start out a little slow,” Sierra coach Kim Ellis said. “But I tell the girls just to focus on their play and not to worry about the score. Even though we did start off slow, these girls are fighters and one thing I love about this team is they have never given up on one single game ever.
“This game was dedicated to themselves as individuals. This entire season they have played well as a team, they play really great as a team, they have been showing up for each other and of course that continues. But tonight I wanted them to reach within themselves to find a different player they had never seen before.”
Zoe Kossart led the Timberwolves with 18 kills and 21 digs. Maddie McGuire added eight kills, Alex Chapman six kills and Elena Threet five kills. Karlie Burns chipped in six kills and Sophia Marian had five digs.
Buffaloes coach Robin Chandler was ecstatic to have standout Izabella Sanchez back on the floor after not being able to play due to a bad knee, only to lose standout Michaela Singh to a broken hand in the first game.
“Izabella was just cleared to play this week. She is going to have to have some type of surgery, but she loves being out here and we love having her. She has been cleared to play with that brace and I wish we would have had her all season. Maybe our season would have been different.
“We lost Michaela in that first game and we still got really close. I think if we would have had her all night we would have had a great shot. Not to take anything away from them, they fought their way back especially in that third match. It’s just been a roller-coaster season for us.”
Courtney Washburn led Manteca with 10 kills, Sanchez added eight kills with seven apiece for Carsyn Van Zant and Riley Slikker. Jessica Almeida dished out 30 assists.
Sierra will begin the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs next Tuesday with the location to be announced later this week.
Sierra 2, Manteca 1
Amaya Maciel led a ferocious Timberwolves comeback in a 1-25, 25-14, 16-14 win.
Maciel tallied seven kills with Ellie Sutton (11 digs), Katelyn Burkett (nine digs), Cianna Leonardo (15 assists, four aces) and Jenna Cai (six aces) all contributing.
Jayana Dias had 14 digs, 10 assists and an ace for the Buffaloes. Peyton McDonald added seven kills and three aces and Rylee Newcrest chipped in four kills and an ace.
Manteca 2, Sierra 0
Talia Shelbourne blasted five kills and four blocks for the Buffaloes in a 25-9, 25-23 win.
Saniyah Anthony added six kills, Sienna Lowery tallied five aces and six assists and Riley Ward posted four aces and four assists.
Maitland Kohoutek put up three3 aces, two kills, a tip and two digs for the Timberwolves. Danica Cesante added two assists and four digs and Ashley De Belen two digs