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Hillgals sweep up Falcons

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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It only felt like a five-game volleyball thriller Wednesday night at Earl Crabbe Gym. In reality, Placer High swept Colfax 25-23, 25-23, 25-23 to remain in the driver’s seat for the Pioneer Valley League championship. The Falcons could have tied the Hillgals with a win, but Placer came up big in the clutch time after time to get the most gratifying victory of the year. “This is like a championship match,” said Placer senior Sarah Francis, who had seven kills. “To beat Colfax, to sweep them twice, it feels amazing.” All three matches were close throughout. In Game 1, the Hillgals broke a 23-23 tie with a kill from Erin Ellner, then won it on a block by Kirstin Schauble. Colfax roared back from a 23-17 hole behind the serving of Samantha Hall to tie up Game 2. But a pair of errors by the Falcons gave the win to Placer. The clinching game came down to two points as well. Gabby Orteza tied the game at 23-23 with a kill. Kellyn McDonald put the Hillgals on top, then Orteza ended it with another spike. Junior Michaela Leonard finished with 10 kills, but the Placer squad was remarkably balanced. Ellner had a big night with eight kills and three blocks. Meanwhile seniors Nikki Johnston and Emma Oehler were all over the place on defense. “We knew this match was going to come down to defense,” Placer coach Jennifer Wright said. “They have some incredible hitters and their setter runs a great offense, so we really focused on our defense. That was a great match.” Placer (5-0 PVL, 11-8 overall) was No. 1 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings released earlier this week. The Hillgals need to win the remainder of their PVL games to remain there. Colfax was No. 9 in the Division IV power ratings and will look to recover in its final three PVL matches. Freshman Maddie Ittner played well for the Falcons Wednesday with six blocks and three kills. Haley Biles came up with 11 digs and five blocks to go with 26 assists. Iona Lofrano finished with 11 kills and Maggie Aubuchon added six blocks. In junior varsity action, Placer beat Colfax 25-16, 25-22 to remain perfect in Pioneer Valley League play.