Volleyball: Cougars dispatch Ursuline

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate, the new girls on the block in Redwood Empire volleyball, made a statement Thursday night while defeating host Ursuline in straight sets.
In a dominating performance, the Cougars served notice they are one of two elite teams in the North Bay League and they are capable of making a deep run in next month’s North Coast Section tournament.

Rancho trailed once in dispatching Ursuline 25-19, 25-13 and 25-17. The win puts the Cougars at 11-1 in league and tied with perennial champion Maria Carrillo with two matches remaining.

Those two split two regular-season meetings and could meet again Nov.4 in the championship game of the NBL tournament. The following week, NCS begins.
Carrillo has dominated the NBL the past five years and has been NCS DivisionII champs three times since 2005.

After taking Rancho to four sets the first time the teams met, Ursuline coach Amber Oden thought her team might extend the Cougars to the limit this time around. However, the Bears had no answer to the power kills of Courtnie Morton and Katie Martin.

The only time Ursuline led was at 2-1 in the second set. That got Rancho’s attention, and behind the heavy hitting of Morton and Martin, the Cougars scored eight of the next nine points.

“I was expecting to have a good year and the girls haven’t disappointed,” fifth-year coach Edna Monroe said. “They play well together and I think they’re still improving.

“In this game, we came together as a team. … We hit a little slump recently where we were winning, but not playing the way we can. We pulled it together as a team.The girls know in the postseason they can’t get by without playing their best.”

Morton, a four-year starter, is 5-foot-7 but plays much taller. She had 15 kills; Katie Martin had eight. Setter Kiana Cassidy had 36 assists, and Shelby Atwood got 23 digs.
Ursuline coach Oden agrees that this Rancho team is special.

“We played our game,” she said. “Rancho’s just a great team with great hitters. I don’t think the score is indicative of how close the match was. We had a lot of long points, but in the end they just had too much power.”

Jessica Biddulph had 49 assists for the Bears while Carly Rafanelli had four kills and Kelsie Bogyo served four aces.

Now with a 6-5 record, Ursuline will have to finish with a flourish to make the NBL tournament.

Meanwhile, with a squad that has only three seniors, Rancho looks like it will be one of the Redwood Empire’s elite teams for at least several more years.