East Union has already proven to be much improved from its 2017 campaign, but to qualify for the postseason the Lancers are going to have to pick up some wins against the Valley Oak League’s perennial contenders.
One of them is Oakdale, a club they have beaten just twice since 2004.
“We knew we could keep up with a team like this,” East Union coach Chelsea Herrera said.
They did. Just not for long.
After surviving a scare in the opening set, the Mustangs galloped to a 29-27, 25-18, 25-16 win Tuesday at Dalben Center. Oakdale (2-1 VOL, 3-4 overall) was too tough at the net and from the service line, where it totaled 14 aces. Heavy-handed sophomore Emma Harper led Oakdale’s balanced attack.
“They had three big hitters every time,” Herrera said. “They came with their game. Their serving was top notch and we couldn’t make the adjustments.”
East Union (2-1, 6-3) missed a big opportunity in Game 1. To their credit, the Lancers did not go away quietly after falling behind by five points on three occasions. Trailing 23-18, they scored six unanswered for match point, and Jaidyn Valencia (two kills, two blocks) highlighted the comeback flurry with a solo stuff against Abby Cogburn.
It was a back-and-forth battle from there. East Union had match point once again at 26-25 thanks to a tip from Alexus Surnip (five kills, 17 assists), but Oakdale answered with two straight kills from Alyssa Cogburn and Grace Verdegaal.
Miekayla Surnip (seven kills, three aces) scorched a scoring spike of her own after East Union called a timeout. Oakdale then took advantage of a lifting violation and hitting error to escape with the one-game advantage. The Mustangs also overcame six serving errors.
As well as East Union played in spots, unforced miscues combined with Oakdale’s all-around strong play prevented the Lancers to go on momentum-changing runs.
Oakdale charged to a 5-0 lead in the second set behind back-to-back aces from Alyssa Cogburn. East Union once again scrapped its way back and even took a 10-9 lead on Savannah Lebarre’s tip. The Lancers would take only one more lead for the rest of the match.
In one of their best moments of the contest, Lebarre (eight kills, seven digs, two aces) made an outstanding one-armed dig before Valencia punctuated the sequence with a thudding spike off a quick set from Alexus Surnip. That closed the Lancers in 16-15 in Game 2, but Oakdale quickly recaptured control and clinched it with an ace from libero Kailee Whorton.
“I thought we hustled tonight, but we did not come with our ‘A’ game,” Herrera said. “We just weren’t able to execute with what we had. We’d come up with a great dig, we just couldn’t get there in time to keep it in play. Or, we’d have some good passing but our hitters weren’t aggressive enough. It was alike we always had two pieces of the puzzle but not the third.”
It doesn’t get any easier for East Union, which heads to undefeated Central Catholic on Thursday. Central Catholic defeated defending VOL champion Manteca in five Tuesday night.
Oakdale 2, East Union 0
Julieanna Padilla and Leilani Viloria racked up three kills apiece in the Lancers’ 15-25, 16-25 loss.
Nicole Blaire contributed two kills and two aces. Amalia Lopez and Emma Valdez led the defense with five and four digs, respectively.
Oakdale 2, East Union 0
Oakdale rolled to a 25-13, 25-6 victory.
Elizabeth Lopez served two aces, Taylor Theiss had three digs, and Aryana Barraza, Catrina Keith and Jenessa Godoy each had a kill for East Union.