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Manteca sweeps past Placer for semifinal berth
Sarah Inderbitzin (8) of Manteca tips it over the block of Placers Amy Hiatt (2) and Bella Burgard (4). - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Manteca knew better than to overlook 12th-seeded Placer in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinal on Thursday.

Kind of tough do with a hard-swinging 6-foot-3 outside hitter looming on the other side of that net. The fourth-seeded Buffaloes were also aware of Placer’s come-from-behind upset of No. 5 Rio Americano in the opening round.

“It was intimidating, for sure,” Manteca’s Rhiannon Genilla said. “We didn’t know too much about them.”

Manteca was on its game, for the most part, rolling to a 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 sweep. The Buffaloes (24-8) never trailed in the first and third sets, and they’re heading to the semifinal round for the first time since the 2002 team did it as a No. 13 seed.

“I told our girls don’t look at the seeds,” Manteca coach Kevin Bolding said. “They beat a 5 (seed) and they’re a league champion. Everybody at this point is good. You just have to play your game and go with what got you here.” 

It of course only gets tougher for Manteca after sweeping Western Athletic Conference champion Los Banos and Pioneer Valley League titlist Placer. Up next is a trip to top-seeded Sonora on Tuesday. The Wildcats are the reigning Mother Lode League champion and a 2016 finalist in this bracket. They toppled No. 8 Beyer 25-21, 25-12, 20-25, 25-7 on Thursday.

“It’s very exciting,” Manteca setter Kaitlyn Morenzone said. “Ever since my freshman year I’ve been waiting for this moment. It’s really fun to do it with these girls.”

Morenzone came up with big points on her three dump balls to the corners. She cashed in on two of them in the second game, the first of which ended a long rally for a 10-9 Manteca lead. Morenzone caught the Placer defense off guard again for the clinching point.

Morezone’s third dump attack came during a late six-point run in Game 3. Kacy Bolding capped it off with an ace, giving the Buffs a comfortable 21-13 lead. 

“My outside hitters, libero and the other setter are really good at telling me when spots are open,” Morenzone said.

Morezone (five kills, two aces) and Bolding (two aces, seven digs) led the offense with 15 and 10 assists, respectively. Payton Reis produced 11 kills, four aces and two blocks — all team-highs. Genilla added nine kills, 13 digs and two aces. Libero Emma Kadillak had 13 digs, including two against Placer standout Amy Hiatt on the final play of the match.

Hiatt paced all players with 18 kills, and the Hillmen (15-12) went to her frequently in the final set as they tried to extend their season.

“Their big girl is a load,” coach Bolding said. “Front row, back row, it didn’t matter. I thought we did a really good job of trying to minimize her swings, playing good defense and digging a few balls and trying to keep it away from her.”

All four semifinalists in Division III have qualified for the CIF Northern California Regional Championships. Defending section champion Christian Brothers takes on No. 10 El Dorado, which swept second-seeded Woodland, in the other semifinal. The winners square off Saturday, Nov. 11 at a site to be determined.

“It’s so rewarding because the team has worked so hard for it,” Genilla said.