"This crowd was wild," said Sonora senior hitter Abby Runte. "The whole atmosphere here from both of our fans was just super intense. You could tell that everyone was real excited to be here." Wednesday night was Sonora and host Summerville's kickoff to the 2011 volleyball season. "You could tell that all the players on both teams were excited," said Runte. "Because we all know each other so well, it's a huge game. This is a match you want to win." And thanks to an outstanding effort by Runte, most especially in Game 2 - a back-and-forth maddening thriller - the Wildcats did earn a 3-0 win, 25-17, 30-28, 25-14. The star of Game 1 was Runte's teammate Mariah Armstrong. Summerville took an early 2-1 lead, had the serve and eventually set itself up for an easy, clean powerful spike. At least it looked that way. Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, Armstrong jumped high and to her left and pulled of a dazzling block-kill. Post-match, Armstrong said, "I do remember that play. The crowd was crazy and I was pretty nervous before the game started. But we are a calm team and we tend to help chill each other out pretty quickly. After (the block-kill), I think it boosted our confidence a lot." Immediately after her block-kill, Armstrong took the serve and Sonora scored six straight points - three of those off serving aces. With Sonora up 8-2, Summerville's Rachel Richter entered the contest. And thanks in part to two Richter kills, Summerville sliced that Wildcat edge to four. Up 18-13, Armstrong pulled off a terrific spike - running to her right, leaping high, then pulverizing that volleyball over the net and to her left. "That move is called a 'C' or a 'Slide,' " explained Armstrong. "It's a back set. It's my serve receive hit." After Armstrong's "Slide," Sonora finished out the game on a 6-1 run. "We didn't start out very well," said Summerville's Bella Bachtelle. "But in that second game, we stepped it up and played extremely well." Game 2 was berserk. Tighten your seat belts 'cause here goes: Runte's first kill in Game 2 put Sonora up 4-1. The Bears clawed back and led 7-5 after Kameryn Perkins threw down a rocket. Minutes later, Perkins made another kill - again a smash of the ballistic variety - and Summerville led 15-9. The Bears' Taylor Leslie pulled off a back-row kill and Summerville's lead stretched to 20-12. Then Sonora went on a 9-1 run. The highlights in this sequence were eight straight strong and well-placed serves by Tyler Swycinsky and three consecutive kills by Runte. Soon after, Sonora's Anneka Pisula let fly a torpedo and the Cats led 23-21. Trailing 24-23, Richter and teammate Breann Robinson pulled off a clutch, gutsy double-block kill and the game was tied. After another missile off the fist of Perkins, Summerville led 26-25. Then Sonora tied the score at 26-26. And back-and-forth things went until Sonora scored its 30th point of the match off an Armstrong serve. Whew .... "That was one intense game," said Richter. "Back-and-forth, back-and-forth. We feel like we stayed with them pretty good." "Game 2 was a lot better for us than Game 1, because we were more consistent," said Runte, who ended up with a match-high nine kills. "We were making smarter hits." "That crowd pumped us up a lot," said Perkins. "We played so much better in that second game than the first. At one point in the game, I was thinking, 'OK, we just need a few more points here and we've got it.' But we know Sonora is a great team - they always have been." Perkins stayed red-hot in Game 3, delivering four more kills. But Sonora's Cassidy Knowles came through with four kills as well. After jumping out to a 14-6 lead, the Cats were able to close things out - scoring 11 of the final 19 points. For Sonora, Pisula had eight kills and 11 assists, and Elise Amend had a match-high 12 assists. "It was a very electric atmosphere with both Sonora and Summerville fans boisterously representing their schools," said Wildcat head coach Kim Evans. "This is the type of atmosphere that you cannot recreate in practice and this match will go a long way in preparing us for when we play our rival match against Oakdale. Summerville is a very scrappy team that consistently keeps the ball in play, which can be frustrating for teams. "Maddie Pallante made some great digs for us and Leah Divine came in and helped us in our comeback in Game 2. Every girl on our team contributed to this exciting win tonight." For Summerville, Robinson had a team-high eight assists and Bachtelle had six kills. Perkins had a team-high eight kills. "She has always been a great volleyball player," said Bachtelle of Perkins. "But this year, she has definitely stepped it up. She's one of our few seniors, and it's her time to rise. She's doing a great job." "The opportunity to play the front row this year has really helped me step things up," said Perkins. "Last year, we had a lot of really good senior hitters. This year we're younger. But we're working together well. I think tonight, playing well against such a great team like Sonora, was a big step forward for us." "I am sure we will improve as the season continues," said Bears head coach Kristy Dwyer. "We are a young team and will gain confidence as we go. I was happy with the performance in the first and second game, but was disappointed that we let Sonora climb all the way back into Game 2 and defeat us." "There was some really good competition out here tonight," said Knowles. "All of us are good friends. I thought Summerville played really well." "Sonora is very good and Abby Runte is, of course, one of the best players in the county," said Bachtelle. "It was an amazing feeling being on the court tonight with everyone going crazy in the stands. It was a lot of fun for both teams." And a lot of fun for the fans.
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