First place in the Mother Lode League was on the line Tuesday night.

After 90 minutes of pulse-pounding volleyball action, host Summerville, the two-time defending champion, had won two games.

Bret Harte had also won two games.

In the deciding Game 5, Summerville and Bret Harte were locked in a 10-10 tie.

"I told (Bears assistant coach) Amy Wahlbrink, who was sitting right next to me, 'This match is aging me badly,' " said Summerville head coach Kristy Dwyer. "This was a nail-biter the whole night. It went back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Finally, you realize whomever is gonna be the toughest at the end is gonna win."

After blasting torpedos at Summerville all night, Bret Harte's Kylie Kester faked a kill and dropped over a successful dink.

11-10, Bret Harte.

After Summerville tied things up, Kester went back to her more conventional way of earning a point - a tomahawk slam - and Bret Harte led 12-11.

Bullfrog Brie Preston then dropped a kill on Summerville, Bret Harte led 13-11 and Dwyer called timeout.

Next, Summerville's Taylor Ebner came through with a savage smash.

Bret Harte 13, Summerville 12.

Later, down 14-13, Summerville's Breann Robinson dropped over a furious bomb and the score was tied.

Finally, Preston ended this match with two consecutive kills.

"We won this match with our intensity," said Preston. "Once we were behind after Game 3 (2-1), we just yelled at each other, 'Let's pick it up!' And then that's what we did."

Summerville won Game 1, 25-18, behind four kills from Kameryn Perkins.

"Bret Harte is our biggest competitor right now and we all wanted to beat them so bad tonight," said Perkins. "It was hard not to want to kill everything."

In Game 2, Kester went ballistic - drilling eight kills - and Bret Harte won 25-21.

"I really love competing," said Kester. "And playing against a really good team like Summerville brings out the fire in me, I guess."

And Kester never let that fire get extinguished. She had a career-high 26 kills total.

"She is always so good," said Perkins of Kester. "She knows to go to the far end and it's tough for us to cover it because we always want to go to the inside. It's great for her that she knows to go hard-angle. We just need to learn how to adjust to that."

In Game 3, Kester had four kills, including an earthquake-inducing spike which cut Summerville's lead to 24-22.

Bear Courtney Robinson responded by firing a cross-court dynamic blast of her own, Summerville won the game 25-22 and led 2-1 overall.

Summerville's Nicole Christie had a team-high three kills in Game 3.

"It was really scary for us coming into this match," said Christie, who had six kills total. "But once we saw how well we could play, we settled down quickly."

In Game 4, Kester went into a machine-gun frenzied attack, firing eight kills and led Bret Harte to a 25-21 win.

"We're lucky that Kylie was on tonight," said Bret Harte head coach Rich Juarez. "She took care of business for us."

The first four games had each been close, well-contested. Bret Harte's Sammie Artiaga, Brittany Schulte and Preston were diving all over the place keeping balls in play. On the other side of the net, Courtney Robinson, Taylor Leslie, Ashley Gamber and Breann Robinson were equally busy tallying up floor burns, keeping volleyballs in play.

Perhaps then it was fitting that the conclusive fifth game wasn't completed until overtime.

"Our girls played tougher than they have all year long," said Dwyer. "We kept the ball in play, but we couldn't get the kill as often as they did. Their offense is obviously a lot more powerful than ours but we hung in there and hustled."

Summerville's record is now 6-3. After Tuesday's 3-2 victory, Bret Harte remains alone in first place at 8-1.

"We wanted to win this match so bad," said Bret Harte's Cassidy Davis, who came through with numerous clutch plays including eight kills. "We had been making some mistakes in the first four games and if we'd have kept on making those mistakes we would have lost that Game 5. But we kept it together, we worked as a team and we have two great leaders: Kylie and Brie Preston."

Preston had a match-high five block-kills and a career-high 20 kills. Kester had four block-kills and Davis three.

For Summerville, Bella Bachtelle had seven kills and three block-kills. Perkins had a team-high 11 kills. Courtney Robinson had four kills, and Breann Robinson four kills and three block-kills. Rachel Richter had five kills and a team-high four block-kills.

"It was a really nerve-wracking, very intense match," said Richter. "They had some really hard hitters. But, altogether, I think we played really well. In Game 5, we could have used just a bit more communication.

"I do think Bret Harte works well together, they're a good team and they can hammer it down really hard."

The Bullfrogs are hungry. It's been 24 years, 1987, since Bret Harte has won the MLL title.

"We want that title," said Preston. "We want it bad."

"We were just unfortunate to come out on the losing end of this very close match," said Dwyer. "When you have a lot of offensive power like Bret Harte, then you can put the ball away better.

"Overall, it was a well-played match by both teams and it was gut-wrenching - the whole time."


The Bullfrogs and Bears will next collide in volleyball on Oct. 27 in Angels Camp.

Summerville's next opponent is Linden in Tuolumne on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Bret Harte visits Calaveras.