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The Sonora High School girls volleyball team has been on the road. A lot.
They’ve also been winning. A lot.
They are storming their way through the CIF State Girls Volleyball Championships.
On Tuesday night they added another win with a four-set victory over Division I Los Gatos, 18-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-21.
Amidst whispers along the lines of “they’re not bad for a small team from Sonora” the No. 11 Wildcats overpowered the No 2 Los Gatos defense to move one step closer to a regional title.
While home court is great, these ‘Cats seem to be thriving away from Bud Castle Gym.
Head coach Amy Wahlbrink said the team has made the most of the time away, too.
“We have had some good team bonding,” she said after Tuesday’s win. “They’ve spent a lot of time in the car together.”
The team has been eating pre-grame meals together, exploring new towns, and going to the mall.
It’s part of Wahlbrink’s plan to keep things as normal as possible.
“They don’t seem to care about playing on the road,” she said.
The ‘Cats have also been spending a lot of time in the locker room before games. Lights off, visualizing their success.
This week, starter Maddie Fong has been sick and unable to practice, Wahlbrink said.
Fong is an integral part of the ‘Cats’ game plan.
But they were prepared to go without her in the lineup.
Fong had other plans.
Before the game, Wahlbrink encouraged Fong to focus on goals, not how her body was feeling.
“She really rose to the occasion,” Wahlbrink said. “She played her heart out.”
She also had her best match as a Wildcat.
Los Gatos was no easy win.
The other Wildcats were intimidating, with an impressive gym, college players helping out on the sidelines and a former Stanford star helping with warm-ups.
The intimidation factor showed in the first game, Wahlbrink said.
“We couldn’t get things going,” she said. “We couldn’t pass to save our lives in that first game.”
Heading into the second they talked about refusing to fear failure.
That’s when they caught Los Gatos off-guard.
Wahlbrink knew their weakness was their defense, and her team was ready to pounce.
Despite a six-foot, two-inch middle blocker, Sonora’s tenacity and wits won the night.
“They (Los Gatos) were mentally nervous. They made silly mistakes,” Wahlbrink said. “They were shell shocked.”
Also helping Sonora to victory was their strong service game.
They had twice as many aces as they usually serve.
Maddie Fong had five and Riley Patterson had nine.
Fong also had four kills with no hitting errors.
Emma Collett was impressive on defense with 25 digs.
Brittney Canepa had 16 assists off of 39 sets and two aces, Wahlbrink said.
Molly O’Reilly had nine kills, three blocks and 17 assists.
Sarah Rosasco had seven kills and Bella Patterson had five kills and passed 32/33 in serve receive.
Next up for the ‘Cats after a much-deserved Thanksgiving break is a Saturday match against No. 4 seeded Lincoln in San Francisco. The game starts at 6 p.m.
“The girls have been so focused and intentional with every play. We haven’t been making a lot of mental mistakes,” Wahlbrink said.
No doubt more bonding time on the road will only help.
“If we can continue to play like that i know that we can have success,” said Wahlbrink.