"'Expect a lot of ups and downs', because both teams were great teams and we're in their house, and we expected a big crowd, loud, and that's pretty much what it was" -- Steele Canyon head volleyball coach Karolyn Kirby
by Christopher Mohr
October 26, 2010 (El Cajon) - Monday night's (10/25) girls high school volleyball match at Grossmont High School between the host Foothillers and the visiting Cougars of Steele Canyon High School had about everything you could want in a sporting event. No one could have gone home feeling cheated with two contenders for the Grossmont Hills league title facing each other in a highly competitive, playoff-like atmosphere.
The frequent momentum shifts, the loudness of the fans and the intensity with which both teams played each other made this match one that all who witnessed it will likely remember for a long time. It came as no surprise that it would take five sets to determine a winner. In the end, the Cougars were able to make a few more plays than the Foothillers did, winning the match 3-2 with scores of 26-24, 23-25, 25-14, 18-25 and 15-12.
Doing some basic math with the scores from each set shows exactly how close this match truly was. The Cougars scored a total of 107 points while the Foothillers scored 100. The seven point difference over five sets translates to an average margin of victory of 1.4 points per set for the Cougars, fewer than the two point margin required to win an individual set. That's about as close to an even matchup as you can get.
When you hear talk of giving 100 percent, it's usually from a recycled sports cliche. In this match however, it aptly describes the players' effort. Diving to keep a volley alive, chasing balls headed out of bounds, and digging out spikes that seemed as though they were fired from a cannon were typical of the way both teams played.
In the first set the Cougars had a 10-1 lead at one point, aided largely by four aces from Kali Schwartz. The Foothillers seemed unfazed by the large early deficit however, and eventually came back to tie the score 22-22. The Cougars eventually won the set 26-24, reinforcing predictions that neither team was going to run away with this match.
The Foothillers won the second set 25-23. It was so evenly played that neither team ever had more than a two point lead.
The third and fourth sets in the match were the only times that either team enjoyed anything resembling domination. In the third set, the Cougars had intervals where they scored five and six unanswered points in a 25-14 win. Similarily, the Foothillers had an interval in the fourth set with seven unanswered points in a 25-18 win. Not surprisingly, these intervals of unanswered points equaled the winning margin in the sets which they occurred.
The fifth set did not get off to a good start for the Cougars, whose first two serves went into the net. While such errors were the last thing a team wants in the deciding set of a match, the Cougars did not get down on themsleves and bounced back with two straight kills by Halle Aiken. They would score five unanswered points while Aiken served and the Foothillers would help by committing three double hit violations.
"We just knew that if we played tentatively, it's that cliche, 'don't play to not lose, play to win' and that's kind of what happened on both sides," said Steele Canyon head coach Karolyn Kirby, who felt that her team needed to play aggressively to win.
In spite of so much shifting in the Cougars' favor, the Foothillers would not go away easily and scored three unanswered points to close the Cougars' lead to two points, 10-8. The rest of the set was pretty evenly played, but the Foothillers could not catch up, and the Cougars held on to win the final set 15-12.
Aiken, the Cougars' team captain, had another impressive night with 33 kills, 0 passing errors and a hit percentage of .574. Schwartz had five aces, all coming in the first game. Delaney Weed had 21 digs and Samantha Willoughby had 28 assists, with many of them setting up Aiken.
Steele Canyon improved to 21-9 overall, 7-1 in league play. The Cougars are now tied for first place in the Grossmont Hills league with the Foothillers and will play their next match Wednesday, October 27, at Helix (7-11, 3-5).
"Feels amazing because we were in the running for league, we're tied with them right now. All we need to do is push these next few games and we have it in the bag," Aiken said about the win.
Aiken also talked about the previous match with Grossmont at Steele Canyon on October 6, "What really hurt us was our girl, Danielle Stathas, she hurt her leg in that Grossmont game, so that kind of put us down an outside hitter, but we started growing strong in practice and we got a couple of girls who could help us on the outside."
From a scoring perspective, the previous match against Grossmont was very similar to Monday's, except the Foothillers won 3-2, by scores of 25-18, 23-25, 25-17, 19-25, 15-12.
"I knew this was going to be a crazy night, I just knew it. I knew there was going to be a lot of drama so we were talking about it a lot, like, 'Expect a lot of ups and downs', because both teams were great teams and we're in their house, and we expected a big crowd, loud, and that's pretty much what it was," said coach Kirby about the match.
Grossmont drops to 18-11 overall, 7-1 in league play. Their next match is at West Hills (7-12, 3-6) also on Wednesday, October 27.
Christopher Mohr is a freelance writer in the San Diego area and is a big fan of the Detroit Red Wings, Padres and Chargers, no matter how much they frustrate him.