Rocklin has to rally after Del Oro loss

Three crucial matches ahead
By: Cameron Salerno for The Placer Herald
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The Sierra Foothill League is a powerhouse. Night in and night out, teams battle for school pride and standing position.

Rocklin and Del Oro found themselves in such a battle Monday, not only for school pride, but for the SFL's fourth and final automatic berth into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs.

In spite of the urgency, the Thunder could not turn back a determined Golden Eagles’ squad.

Typical of this rivalry, the final set was neck-and-neck battle before Del Oro inched away. Leading 24-22, the Eagles’ Sydney Mathias rifled home the winning kill to give his club the match in three sets.

“We had a lot of guys who stepped up for us tonight,” Mertz said. “We had some injuries coming into this game that kept some players out, but I think if we keep building we can come out stronger next time.”

After losing the opening set, Rocklin found its groove and exposed holes in the Loomis school’s defense to gain a 23-15 advantage. However, Del Oro would not go away.

Clutch serves by Del Oro senior Dawson Fugate allowed the Golden Eagles to come all the way back for a 25-24 lead. Fugate then set up Caleb Hoppe, who hammered the ball past the outstretched arms of Rocklin star Shane Atkins for a 26-24 victory in the second set.

“Volleyball is just like any sport, if you have a mental breakdown like we did toward the end of the set you are going to pay for it,” Mertz explained. “In that set we just couldn’t finish even though we started off super well.”
In the first set, Del Oro come out strong and never trailed to pick up an easy win, 25-16.

“I thought we came together in the moments that mattered,” Rocklin head coach Anthony Mertz said. “We just couldn’t pull it together in the first set and the moments that we rallied weren’t long enough.”

The win gave Del Oro (5-5) a more comfortable lead over the Thunder for fourth place in the SFL. Rocklin (3-6) has to win their final three games to have a chance of making the postseason. Their final three games will be against Woodcreek, Granite Bay and Folsom. Rocklin lost to both the Timberwolves and Grizzlies earlier in the season.

However, the Thunder’s final match is against Folsom, a team they beat in three sets the first time they played.

“We need to win our next three matches to stay alive for a postseason berth,” Mertz said. “If we keep playing hard and getting better we will be OK.”