AUBURN– The Placer girls volleyball team has encountered some speed bumps over the latest stretch of the season. Entering Monday, the team hadn’t played an official match in 11 days and it lost a key senior player due to personal reasons, causing head coach Jen Wright to shuffle her lineup heading into Foothill Valley League play against Nevada Union – the No. 8 team in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
After Monday, however, the road seemed to be a bit smoother, at least for the near future, as Placer knocked off the Miners in four sets – 25-22, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16 – to begin league play on a positive note.
“I thought last week not having a game was really helpful,” said the coach’s daughter, Emily Wright. “We could just work on what we needed to work on, so we got a lot more reps in serving, hitting and passing, and I think that made all of us more confident going into the new league.”
The teams traded the first two sets, mostly benefiting from hitting and serving errors, but in the third and fourth sets, Placer began to execute its offensive attack. Amy Hiatt took over for Placer in the third set, recording seven of her team-high 13 kills to counter the steady combination of Faith Menary and Emerson Dunbar for the Miners.
“That feels really good,” said Coach Wright. “Having been off all week, I felt our passing was rusty, but we just kind of reset after that second game. It was like all we had to do was pass because I don’t think (NU) could stop our offense.”
Big defensive stops at the net by Hiatt, Baylor Herlehy, Jill Worthington and Bella Burgard in the latter two games sparked long rallies for Placer.
“We should be able to block like that,” said Wright. “We’re a big, blocking team. To have two or three back-to-back was awesome. It builds momentum.”
Hiatt led the way with 13 kills and 10 digs while Emily Wright added eight kills and Burgard five.
“We’ve been practicing really hard because we expect league to be super hard,” said Hiatt. “We tried to take the loss of their energy and turn it into our energy.”
Placer had balance in its distribution from setters Katie Schwab (12 assists) and Josie Hernandez (10). Libero Heather Young added 19 digs and four service aces for the 6-6 Hillmen.
Said Emily Wright, “All of us came in wanting to win just to get our foot in the door of the new league, saying, ‘Hey, we’re here to play’.”
Placer’s next game is Wednesday at Rio Linda.