Placer's rally turned back

Placer turns it around after two-game skid, but Vista pulls away to advance to final
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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FOLSOM — As she rode the roller coaster of emotions Tuesday night Placer High volleyball coach Jennifer Wright never doubted her team’s ability to dig deep and turn a rut into a rally. The Hillgals did just that, putting two forgettable games behind them and roaring back to force a fifth and deciding game against Vista Del Lago in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals. The Eagles, who had coach Patrick Sanders pacing the sideline, had the final, decisive momentum swing. Vista Del Lago beat Placer 20-25, 25-8, 25-11, 24-26, 15-11 to advance to the section championship match for the second straight season. “That was about as wild as it gets,” Sanders said. “We caught a few breaks in that last game. Both teams were fighting for their lives. Volleyball is a game of momentum and you just hope your gets the better of it. A lot of teams would have folded after the third game, but they battled. It’s a credit to Placer.” Placer looked finished after Vista imposed its will in the second and third games. The Hillgals were in trouble in Game 4, trailing 16-11 before storming back. Gabby Orteza epitomized Placer’s effort with three unbelievable digs on one point to set up a kill by Michaela Leonard that gave Placer its first lead at 21-20. Becky Matthews’ kill ended the thrilling win for the Hillgals. “I think (the rally), that’s just us,” said Wright, who has led Placer to the section semifinals three times in six years as coach. “They never got down on each other. They were supporting each other the whole time. We were unable to get everybody on the same page in all phases of our game tonight, but they still stuck together.” Leonard, who will play setter at San Jose State next fall, ended her career with a great performance. She led Placer with 10 kills, two blocks and one ace. Junior Kellyn McDonald was outstanding, finishing with eight kills. Juniors Kirstin Schauble and Lauren Collins added four kills apiece. Eagles junior Caroline Sipiora was tough to stop. She pounded 21 kills, four of which came on Vista’s final five points. Orteza said the Placer players were proud of their effort against the Eagles, who eliminated them in the second round of the 2010 playoffs. “After the third game we just told ourselves to pull our heads out…” Orteza said. “I had a great desire to win and I tried to spread that to my teammates. We fought back and never gave up, so we’re happy with that.” Wright said she will remember Placer’s seniors for their improvement and positive attitudes. “I remember them as little freshmen and they’ve matured so much and become amazing women,” Wright said. “We will definitely miss them.”