By GERARDO RECINOS
Last week the Bulldogs split their games against Freedom-Oakley and Acalanes-Lafayette respectively, but the margin between the two results really highlights what the league restructuring will do for the Bulldogs in 2016.
The Acalanes Dons made easy work of the Bulldogs on Sept. 15, taking a straight set 3-0 win. The Dons beat the Dogs in the same way Alhambra beat Freedom: by being better without a doubt.
But if anything it highlights why there was a need for change.
See the Dons came in second place in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League and were North Coast Section semi-finalists. Of the five other teams in the Foothill Conference of the Diablo Athletic League for girl’s volleyball only Clayton Valley Charter-Concord and Berean Christian-Walnut Creek made the playoffs last season along with the Bulldogs.
Only Clayton Valley won a game in the playoffs, although they were knocked out in the second round. Berean was knocked out in the first round.
Berean qualified with a 10-20 record, only due to their 6-6 mark in league.
So while such contrasting results could signal bat times, let me assure you, this can only be a good sign. Competitive showings against teams as good as Acalanes will set groundwork for the Bulldogs to challenge for the league title in their conference.
Their first set on Thursday night didn’t look very convincing. After taking a brief lead with three hard-fought points that included a long rally, they collapsed.
Acalanes went on an 8-0 run which included a pair of aces from Alex Matson. They kept up the dominance by extending the run to 13-2, with Alhambra’s only point coming from a kill (the first of nine) by sophomore Sterling Parker. The Bulldogs had a small surge in the dying stages of the match but the Dons closed it out calmly.
In the second set, they competed to the brink. Gabby Chase opened the set with the first of her three kills on the night. Parker and Erin Silva joined in with a pair of their own to cut into the Acalanes deficit. Things looked good. The Bulldogs were helped out by some less than stellar play from the Acalanes bench, and opened up a lead of 15-11.
But that’s when coach Ernie Rodriguez stopped messing around and reinserted his starters.
They made the difference. Senior captain Melissa Elliott started her own block party with a pair of denials to tie things up at 20-20 before eventually getting the winning kill to take set two at 26-24 in favor of the Dons.
Set three seemed to be a lot more taxing on the exhausted Dogs. The defense was running around all over the place to cope with the hitting of the Dons. Junior Sophia Olson had a team-high 20 digs, double what any other player on her side had.
Acalanes had been hitting like crazy up to this point in the match, but in set three they picked up their defensive efforts at the net. They blocked shots five times in the deciding set, frustrating the Alhambra hitters on the way to an easy win.
The Bulldogs participated in the East Bay Invitational Varsity Tournament, splitting the two games they played. They beat Big Valley Christian-Modesto 2-0, and lost to Mission San Jose 2-0 in their opener.