By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Even though the pre-game senior farewell on Thursday night held by the Maria Carrillo girls’ volleyball team was emotional, on the court the result was a business-as-usual 3-0 victory (25-21, 25-18, 25-17) over Windsor in the season finale of the North Bay League schedule.
The Pumas (22-4, 14-0) victory over the visiting Jaguars (19-15, 6-8) finalized Maria Carrillo’s NBL season without a scratch. It was the 11th consecutive NBL title (nine solo and two co-championships) in coach Jeff Nielson’s 11-year tenure.
“Tonight we were a little off on our service receive,” Nielson said. “Having senior night was emotional for the girls and it took a while to recover.”
Next for the Pumas is the Northgate Invitational on Saturday in Walnut Creek. Following that will be the NBL tournament next Tuesday through Thursday, featuring the top four league teams. Finally, the Pumas, who will almost certainly receive a high seed, will participate in the upcoming North Coast Section Divison II playoffs.
“It has been a real enjoyable season,” Nielson said. “We are ready for the postseason after a successful regular season,”
For fifth-place Windsor (19-15, 6-8), their first season in the NBL was a vast upgrade over its final campaign in the Sonoma County League when the Jaguars only won one game last season. The Jaguars are eligible for the NCS Division II playoffs.
“This season was a huge improvement over last season’s 7-21 record. This year we had a senior-heavy team with a lot more knowledge,” Windsor coach Rick Schwarz said. “To go from 1-11 in the SCL to the NCS playoffs to me is really impressive.”
Sporting a huge height advantage in the front line, the Pumas exploited the gaps in the Jaguar’s floor coverage and used the deep serve as a weapon.
“When they (Pumas) serve as well as they do, it is really hard for us to run our offense because we couldn’t pass the ball to the net,” Schwarz said. “Maria Carrillo is a really good setting, hitting and blocking team. It is really hard to match up with them.”
Even with the Pumas skill and height advantage, all three games were it was a close. In game 1, with the score 15-15, the Pumas went on a 9-4 run for a 24-19 lead. Maria Carrillo clinched the game on a kill by Calan Seitz (10 kills).
In game 2, Maria Carrillo held a 10-9 edge before winning 8 of the next 10 points to take command and win 25-18.
Game 3 started out well for the Jaguars, who took a 7-5 lead before the Pumas scored 8 unanswered points for a 13-7 lead. Windsor never narrowed the lead to less than five points and lost 25-17.
Nielson, however, said the Jaguars were much tougher in the rematch.
“Windsor came really ready and prepared to play,” he said. “They were scrappy and played good defense.”
In addition to Seitz, the Pumas were led by Ali Wiesner with 30 assists and Cassie Blanchard with 18 digs.
Windsor was led by Alison Smith with 23 digs and Caley Wildemuth with 16 assists.