Analy edges El Molino in SCL volleyball

El Molino's Mellissa Manni, center, and Siera Taylor, right, try to block a hit made by Analy's Claire Sullivan. Photo by Crista Jeremiason, The Press Democrat

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

SEBASTOPOL — Facing an opponent’s best and prevailing is a staple of Analy volleyball, and a young Tigers team gained big-game experience in holding off El Molino at home Tuesday.
Coming from behind and going into overtime to win the deciding game, Analy won 3-1 in the Sonoma County League opener for both schools.

Strong hitting from Brianna Adviento and Claire Sullivan, and sturdy blocking up front by Courtney Covery — all seniors — carried the Tigers to a closer-than-expected-match win.

“We have a really young team this year. We need them to gain experience so we can be a deeper team,” Sullivan said. “We pulled out the win. This match was really important for us.”

To take the last two games after El Molino evened the match at a game each, Analy first beat back a Lions’ comeback and then had enough big plays to overtake El Molino.
Despite the loss, El Molino is much-improved this year and learning how to compete against the best teams.

“I was proud of how hard our team played. Analy taught us how to play through those nerves,” El Molino coach Leslie Grassl said.
Analy was the stronger team in the first game, putting El Molino on it heels with hard serving and clean net play led by outside hitters Sullivan and Adviento. Lions’ errors also hurt as Analy won 25-15.

In the second game, El Molino forged a tie and then methodically built a lead to win 25-18.
Siera Taylor was a force in the middle, hitting winners, setting up spikes, and blocking balls back to Analy. Matching her strong play on the outside was Melissa Manni. Both figured in the winning point with Taylor tipping a ball to midcourt beyond the reach of Tigers defenders.

“Siera Taylor does absolutely everything for our team. She does it all,” Grassl said.
But the Lions couldn’t carry the momentum into Game 3. Analy pushed out to a seemingly comfortable double-digit advantage with Sullivan blasting a hit that was too hot to handle for the Tigers’ largest lead.

El Molino erased the deficit with a run highlighted by big returns and sure hitting to win long rallies. Taylor Lunardi, Emma Vierra and Vallena Lipske were busy keeping balls alive and setting up the Lions’ big hitters, Taylor and Manni.

Then it was Analy’s turn and the Tigers finished with Adviento striking a pair of hard serves the Lions couldn’t get back over the net for the 25-22 win.

In the fourth game, Analy scored the first point, but then didn’t lead again until late when El Molino struck a return long to end a long rally. The game swung back and forth with both teams mixing digs, saves and strikes.

The crowd was buzzing as the teams went into overtime. Analy scored the final three points — on Kira Rudderow’s tip at the net, a Madelyn Davis ace, and another Davis serve the Lions couldn’t keep alive — to take the game 28-26 and the match.

“We played at their pace instead of ours,” Adviento said. “We pulled it together in the end. We stayed strong.”