Lady Dogs outlast San Marin in second-round playoff win

Alhambra’s volleyball team was all smiles after their 3-2 win over the San Marin Mustangs in the second round of the North Coast Section playoffs on Nov. 5, 2016. The win allowed the Bulldogs to advance to the semi-finals against Marin Catholic on Nov. 9, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra’s volleyball team was all smiles after their 3-2 win over the San Marin Mustangs in the second round of the North Coast Section playoffs on Nov. 5, 2016. The win allowed the Bulldogs to advance to the semi-finals against Marin Catholic on Nov. 9, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

By GERARDO RECINOS
Martinez Tribune

Every win at the point is breaking new ground for the Bulldog volleyball team, which qualified for it’s first ever North Coast Section on Nov. 5.

Unlike most of the season leading up to the playoffs, the 3-2 win in the second round of NCS was highly-competitive all the way until the end.

San Marin, who upset number five seed Petaluma, plays in a highly competitive league much like the recently disbanded Diablo Foothill Athletic League that the Bulldogs used to play in.

Four of the Mustangs’ losses came at the hands of Marin Catholic-Kentfield, the Bulldogs’ semi-final opponent, and Redwood-Larkspur. Both of the teams claimed number one seeds in the Division III and Division I brackets.

Those who saw the Bulldogs compete with the likes of Campolindo will know the feeling.

But the opening set of the night wouldn’t have lead you to believe the Bulldogs were in for a battle. The number four seed Alhambra should have rolled over the 12th-seeded Mustangs the same way they did to Analy-Sebastapol.

For at least one set that was true.

San Marin caught up to the Bulldogs after the hosts opened up an early lead, but the Bulldogs ended a stunning set with a 12-2 run.

A kill by sophomore Sterling Parker and an ace by junior Rachel Gray sparked the run, but Alhambra’s defensive play forced the issue, and put the Mustangs in position to lose due to their own mistakes.

In set two the Mustangs took their first lead at 10-9, which was far from definite, but they methodically added to their lead. The lead never was larger than three points until the end when a kill by junior Jenna Clark and a pair of blocks by sophomore Liz King capped off a 5-0 run to win the set for San Marin.

Similar to the first set, Alhambra opened the third set of the night with a lead that evaporated quickly due to San Marin’s accurate hitters. Alex Berlin, a senior, especially got off the block impressively.

Again San Marin only held small leads throughout the set, but this time Alhambra brought it back near the death, threatening to steal a set they lead for only three points.

An ace by Maddie Gray and kill from Parker put the Bulldogs within a point.

But again hitters Makiah Brumbaugh and Kelsey Bergerson sealed it for San Marin with thunderous efforts.

There were six lead changes in set four, but it was the Bulldogs that escaped with the two-point victory, thanks in part the resurgence of junior Gabby Chase, who was an integral  part of what was missing in the first-round playoff win.

Chase had three kills in the third set, which matched efforts from senior Makenzie Salva and Parker.

Alhambra took the tiebreaker fifth set with shocking ease (for spectators at least). After going down 9-8, coach Willie Marchesano took a time out, and the team that came out of the huddle took care of business.

Senior Leslie Roofener recorded an immediate kill, and was followed up with efforts from Chase and Salva.

After a Mustangs timeout, Salva had another kill, and Audrey Pardini recorded her first of the night in an important position. That set up the win that was achieved with a ‘finesse’ hit from Chase, who picked a spot with a cross-court finish to propel Alhambra into the semi-finals.

About Gerardo Recinos

Gerardo Recinos is a journalist currently living in Concord, Calif. He is a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with a degree in Journalism (History minor). Gerardo covers sports throughout Martinez and Pleasant Hill. It's his lifelong mission to get people in the U.S. to stop calling football "soccer," and to call American football "handegg."

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