SRJC volleyball: Bear Cubs best in north after state tournament

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa JC’s volleyball team was denied its first state title Sunday in Fullerton, but the news wasn’t all bad for the Bear Cubs.

The good news is that for the third year in a row, Santa Rosa has come out of the four-team CCCAA tournament as the top team in Northern California.

Santa Rosa began the day eliminating Fresno City College 25-16, 25-12 and 25-21. That was the Rams’ second defeat and left only the Bear Cubs representing Northern California.

The end came for the Bear Cubs several hours later when Golden West beat them in straight sets 25-22, 25-22 and 28-26.

Santa Rosa was appearing in its sixth consecutive state tournament and the past two years settled for second to LA Pierce. The Southern California team beat the Bear Cubs in Saturday’s opening round of the double elimination format.

Coach Kelly Wood said the two matches the Bear Cubs lost were similar.

“We were right there late in every set against the two Southern California teams,” she said. “I don’t know if it was nerves or inexperience, we just couldn’t get the final points to finish a set.”

The Bear Cubs were the youngest team in the final four with nine freshmen on the 17-woman squad.

“Right now, we’re all disappointed,” Wood continued. “We’re frustrated because we thought coming in that we were going to win this thing.”

A team from Northern California hasn’t captured the state title in 44 years.

In Sunday’s opening match, the Bear Cubs avenged an early season defeat by Fresno.

Olivia Urban led the attack with 12 kills. Kaitlyn Dunaway had nine kills and 10 digs while Megan Johnson finished with eight kills and five digs. Setter Allison Copp had an outstanding game with 28 assists.

The Bear Cubs had seven service aces compared to Fresno’s one.

“We served strong,” Wood said. “Our aggressive serving can hurt us at times, but we went on some nice runs today. It was surprising to see Fresno not come out with much fight, but that didn’t affect how we played our game.”

Against Golden West, Urban and Casalino were the big hitters with nine kills apiece. Urban, a sophomore, also blocked five shots. Dunaway had six kills and a dozen digs. Kiana Cassidy had 22 assists and six digs while Adviento successfully dug out six balls.

The Rustlers controlled the pace of the match with strong passing, serving and defense.

In the opening set, the teams traded blows with 12 ties and six lead changes.

Santa Rosa led 14-12 but the Rustlers roared back late on five straight points, capped by an ace from Saelina Dunn to take the set.

Golden West used a 12-6 surge to grab a 14-10 advantage in the next set. The Bear Cubs rallied late to get within 24-22 before Alyssa Hubbard ended the game with a kill.

Santa Rosa went up 14-10 in the third set and led 25-24, on Casalino’s block. However, Golden West closed out the sweep after two Bear Cubs’ errors were followed by a finesse kill from Hubbard.

Santa Rosa’s final record is 27-4.