A knee injury shortened Payton Reis’ sophomore season, and it was a big reason for Manteca missing out on a berth to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
She and the Buffaloes are on a mission to make up for lost time.
Manteca began Valley Oak League play Monday against a one-loss Weston Ranch team that appears poised for a breakthrough campaign.
The Buffaloes rolled to a 25-8, 25-18, 25-19 sweep, and it was Reis who put it away with an emphatic spike. Cougars defensive specialist Saia Hill at the right spot to make the dig on Reis’ first kill attempt of the sequence. Reis was given a second opportunity to end it and made sure to do so after Kacy Bolding delivered the set.
“With me getting injured last year, that put a lot of pressure on me for this season to help get my team going and make it to the playoffs this year,” Reis said. The outside hitter contributed six kills and two aces to the victory. “They’re a solid team, so we had to take this seriously. If our passing can keep this up we can take it all the way.”
Manteca (1-0 VOL, 10-3 overall) showed no ill effects from its previous contest, a four-game loss to defending San Joaquin Athletic Association co-champion Bear Creek last Thursday. It was the end of the Buffaloes’ busy nonleague schedule that featured several championship-level clubs.
“We played a tough schedule to hopefully prepare us for this, and I think we were prepared,” Manteca coach Kevin Bolding said. “It’s still early in the season, but we weren’t totally focused all the way through. We had some ups and downs after (the first set). I’m not taking anything away from them either, they played well after that game and I knew they would.”
It was all Manteca in the opening set. The Buffaloes ended strong, with Kaitlyn Morenzone (14 points, five aces, four kills, 15 assists, nine digs) serving four straight points that included an ace, two kills from Rhiannon Gennila (10 kills, four aces) and a solo stuff from middle blocker Sarah Inderbitzin (three aces, two kills, two blocks).
Sophomore libero Emma Kadillak chipped in nine digs, eight service points and an ace for the Buffs.
“That’s something that I have to figure out,” Weston Ranch coach Eddie Menzel said of his team’s lackluster start. “That’s three straight matches now we’ve come out incredibly flat. When you do that against a really, really good team like Manteca it’s not as easy to recover and get back on track.”
Weston Ranch (0-1, 6-2) had a better showing over the final two sets, jumping out to early leads.
At the start of Game 3, Judit Zamora (five kills) capped off the best rally of the night with a block, and the Cougars had some good moments in a late comeback attempt after three consecutive aces gave Manteca a comfortable 23-14 lead.
Standout outside hitter Amaya Finley paced Weston Ranch with 11 kills. Amena Gonzalez dished out 15 assists, and Senecia Patten added four blocks and two aces.
“When we play really good teams like this we’ve shown flashes and the potential,” Menzel said. “The pieces are there as is the skill level, we just have to develop that mind set. You watch their girls, for example, they all have a killer instinct. They have this mind set where they come in, it’s all business and they’re able to lock in all the way through. That’s something that we’re still learning and trying to figure out.”
It doesn’t get easier for either team, as Weston Ranch hosts Central Catholic on Thursday while Manteca travels to Oakdale to tangle with the reigning VOL champion.
“Hopefully we can build on this,” coach Bolding said. “We have Oakdale next, and especially when you play them there you have to play their ‘A’ game. Everything still runs through them, Central Catholic and Kimball since they were the top three last year, but we can’t overlook anybody else. There are no nights off in league.”
Manteca 2, Weston Ranch 0
Kerren Zou served 22 points and seven aces to go with three kills to lead the Buffaloes’ dominating 25-10, 25-10 victory.
Sydnee Navarro contributed six points, four aces and nine assists. Abby Arias tallied four kills.