By GERARDO RECINOS
Twice this season the Bulldogs collapsed in tiebreaker sets in Diablo Foothill Athletic League (DFAL) play. Tuesday night against Miramonte looked like deja vu all over again.
The Bulldogs had late leads in both tiebreakers against Dublin and Campolindo earlier this month, but squandered those late. Their 9-3 lead against Miramonte nearly evaporated before a valiant effort set up by kills from freshman Sterling Parker and junior Makenzie Salva put Alhambra ahead for good. A Matador error sealed the 16-14 set win, and 3-2 match win for the Lady Bulldogs.
The program has come a long way in seven years, from not winning a DFAL game, but even further in three weeks.
Three weeks ago the Bulldogs were good, but they lacked the killer instinct good teams have to kill off games. At the start of DFAL play, they put themselves in good positions to win, but failed to do so. They were in unfamiliar territory.
But against Miramonte they took care of business when they needed to.
Alhambra played a tight opening set against the Mats that had four lead changes. Miramonte reeled off a 7-1 run that brought them level at 16-16 fueled by Alhambra errors and two kills from their outside hitters.
Haley Jones had three kills in the closing stages of the set that pumped up the Bulldogs (Jones had 15 kills on the night). Ainise Taimani had two kills in the closing stages of the set, and 21 kills overall to lead Alhambra.
Miramonte took back-to-back sets in which Alhambra couldn’t get any type of momentum. They lost those two sets 25-18 and 25-16. Alhambra’s hitting was solid throughout the opening set, but it seemed to disappear in the middle sets.
Luckily they rebounded in the fourth set, with their backs against the walls they fought their way out of trouble. Alhambra opened the fourth set with a quick deficit that they quickly overturned with a huge 12-2 run.
They came from down 9-8 to up 18-11 in the blink of an eye. With two kills each from Lexi Hammer, Salva and Taimani, the Bulldogs forced the Matadors to take time out. From the timeout the Bulldogs took a huge step in a positive direction following three consecutive aces from Taimani which fired her and the rest of her teammates up.
A big block by Parker forced Miramonte to take their second timeout of the set before Alhambra could finish the Mats off. A kill from Jones and two from Taimani sealed the deal and brought up an always tricky tiebreaker set.
In the tiebreaker the Bulldogs started off flying. They overturned an early deficit with clutch hitting, and two aces from senior Sienna Ballot. Miramonte pressured back and took advantage off some calls by the officials that went their way and ultimately took the lead.
Coach Willie Marchesano used a timeout to stop the momentum. The Bulldogs wouldn’t look back from that point on. They took the set and the match, and improved their overall record to 16-8, and their DFAL mark to 2-5.
The Lady Bulldogs have a grudge match with Dublin scheduled for Thursday after Tribune deadline, and will host Dougherty Valley next Tuesday, Oct, 27.