By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SACRAMENTO — The No. 6-seeded Maria Carrillo girls volleyball team traveled 114 miles Wednesday to defeat No. 3-seeded Los Gatos and 96.5 miles Saturday to face No. 2-seeded El Camino in the quarterfinals of the CIF state girls Division 2 volleyball championships.
Saturday’s journey, however, will be the last for the Pumas this season, as they fell to the Eagles in straight sets 25-22, 25-22, 25-20.
“We looked like we played tired tonight,” Maria Carrillo coach Jeff Nielson said. “We didn’t really show up to play the type of volleyball that we are capable of so that’s disappointing.”
The Pumas were in control the majority of the first game, maintaining a slim lead until the score was tied at 22-22. An El Camino block gave the Eagles their first lead of the match at 23-22 and they scored the next two points to take the set.
Carrillo had to fight back to tie the second set. Trailing 15-10, the Pumas tied it at 20-20, but El Camino charged ahead with a 5-2 run to go up by two sets.
Nielson said silly mistakes, like missed serves and balls hit into the net, cost them a chance to win one of the first two sets.
“A couple of plays in the first game go our way and in game two, maybe it’s a different outcome,” he said. “We weren’t able to fight through that stuff tonight. We knew that. At this level, it comes down to who makes the fewest errors and who can hit for kills and El Camino did a great job tonight.”
The Eagles flew out to a 7-0 lead to open the third set, which the Pumas couldn’t overcome. Carrillo clawed back to make it a 24-20 game, but a kill shot by El Camino’s Cassidy Denny closed out the match and the Pumas’ year.
“It’s been a great ride,” Nielson said. “It’s been a great season, and we’ve had a lot of success. We fell short in a couple of goals that we had like winning NCS, but I hope the girls don’t look at the season as a failure because they’ve worked hard. They’ve been going every day since August, playing their hearts out.”
Pumas’ captain Ali Wiesner said she was proud with the final effort.
“We fought the whole time and just came short,” she said. “It’s hard being a senior that being my last game, losing in three. I’m proud of how we fought.”
Mikaela Francis, who finished with 14 kills, said the Pumas played were playing too conservatively.
“We weren’t swinging to get kills: we were swinging to not make mistakes,” Francis said. “So essentially we weren’t playing to win; we were playing not to lose, and I think that’s what got us.”
Francis also said this was her last volleyball game, as she will commit to playing softball in college.