Hillgals take it up a notch

Placer cruises past Colfax to gain early edge in title chase
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Michaela Leonard credited luck for a couple of huge plays that went Placer High’s way Wednesday night at Earl Crabbe Gym. But there is a reason she’s the reigning Most Valuable Player in the Pioneer Valley League. Leonard had eight kills and one emphatic, match-ending block to lead the Hillgals past Colfax 25-17, 26-24, 25-21. Placer’s depth and versatility proved too much for the Falcons, who have finished second in the PVL volleyball standings behind the Hillgals for three straight years. After Placer ran away with Game 1, Leonard had a chance to put away Game 2. But the San Jose State-bound senior spiked the ball into the net. A Colfax service error gave Leonard another chance and she smashed the ball down the line to finish off the game. “That felt so good,” Leonard said. “I said, ‘I have to redeem myself,’ and then I got lucky and got another pass.” In the final game, Placer jumped out to an early lead before Colfax chipped away. Junior Kirstin Schauble had two big kills down the stretch and Leonard came up with the match clincher. “I told Kellyn (McDonald), ‘We’re blocking her right here,’ and we did. I just got lucky again,” Leonard said. While Leonard was outstanding, there were many heroes for Placer (2-0 PVL) Wednesday night. Schauble finished with eight kills and senior Erin Ellner played well with six kills and four blocks. McDonald also had four blocks. Senior Gabby Orteza left her mark on the match with 21 digs. Placer’s libero was hobbling around on crutches just two days ago, nursing a torn muscle in her foot. “Gabby did an excellent job,” Placer coach Jennifer Wright said. “She had some big back-row attacks.” Senior Iona Lofrano pounded eight kills to lead the Falcons (1-1 PVL). Senior Maggie Aubuchon played well with seven kills and three blocks while Maddi Ittner added four kills. The match was not without controversy. Late in Game 2, Colfax thought it had taken a 23-21 lead on a hitting error by the Hillgals. But after a long consultation with a volunteer line judge, the match official reversed the call and gave Placer the point to tie the game at 22-22. The teams then traded service errors before the Hillgals went on to win. Placer doesn’t have much time to celebrate. A pivotal match at Bear River is on tap for Monday. The Bruins were the only PVL team to beat the Hillgals last season. “They’ve got some good players and we have to be ready for them,” Wright said. “I think after taking this match (against Colfax), we see how good we can be if we keep working hard,” Leonard said. “Now we’re gearing up for the Bruins.”