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Hillgals’ historic run ends at No. 1 St. Mary’s

Volleyball
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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STOCKTON — They achieved things this season that no Placer High volleyball team ever has. After Tuesday night’s loss to host St. Mary’s in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals, however, one thing the Hillgals did not feel was a sense of accomplishment. St. Mary’s ousted Placer from the playoffs for the second straight season, routing the Lady Hillmen 25-14, 25-17, 25-14 to advance to Thursday’s championship match against Oakdale at UC Davis. “I’m extremely pleased with our season,” coach Jennifer Wright said. “We won the Pioneer Valley League outright for the first time in Placer history. We made it to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in Placer history. “But we’ve got a bunch of girls who want to be in the championship game. They’re not satisfied, and I’m thrilled about that.” Placer (17-8) reached new heights this season with a roster that boasted just four seniors. While junior setter Colleen Stafford said “I don’t think we played to the best of our ability” against St. Mary’s (28-5), the prospect of being part of a more experienced group next season had her eager to build on this year’s success. “I’m so excited, not just to get to where we are now, but because I want to go even further,” said Stafford , who led Placer with six kills and 10 assists. “We’ve got some talented girls coming up from the JV team, so we should be pretty good.” Junior setter Kelsey Lardner also had 10 assists for Placer Tuesday night. Senior defensive specialists Sydney Leftridge and Melissa Stoll finished with 14 digs apiece, and senior middle blocker Shelby Madigan added five kills for Placer. After struggling in the first game, the Hillgals matched the Rams almost point for point early in the second. At one point the game was tied 11-11. The Rams took the lead for good on an ace by senior libero Taylor Hernandez and consecutive kills by sophomore middle blockers Elle Moffatt and Priscilla Ezeji. Placer kept things close early in the third game as well, but doomed themselves with mistakes. After back-to-back kills by Madigan and Stoll narrowed St. Mary’s lead to 13-10, the Rams closed out the match with a 12-4 run. “We made a lot of errors,” Wright said. “Had we not made so many errors, (the match) would have been a little closer.” St. Mary’s coach Angela McShane doesn’t think she’s seen the last of the Hillgals. “I expect to face them next year,” McShane said. “We beat them in the second round last year, so they’ve obviously gotten better. They’re a good little team, and they’ve got some pretty good athletes.”