In the past two weeks the Sonora High School girls volleyball team has travelled 1,100 miles. Played four matches.
Won three of them.
Clawed through more than 100 teams from around Northern California.
The Wildcats made it to the regional finals and faced the No. 4 seeded Lincoln Saturday.
But they would fall just short of another road win, falling in four sets, 25-19, 19-25, 25-17, 25-17.
“Saturday was just kind of a rough day,” said head coach Amy Wahlbrink. “We didn’t really show up to play.”
Some of that could be attributed to the emotional toll of having been on the road, winning games no one thought they had a chance to win.
“That’s been a lot on our team,” Wahlbrink said.
But these Wildcats have nothing to hang their heads about.
At the start of the season they set specific goals. And they rolled through their season, checking their list off as they played.
They wanted to go undefeated in the Mother Lode League.
Win the league outright.
Seeded first in the section tournament and home court advantage.
They made it to the Sac-Joaquin Division III championship game and lost in four sets.
But their strong season still earned them a spot in the CIF State Girls Volleyball Championship.
They beat No. 6 and No. 3.
On Nov. 21 they faced Division I and No. 2 seed Los Gatos.
They won that one, too, in four sets, 18-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-21.
When the team gathered for their final team meeting this week, that win over Los Gatos was a unanimous choice for one of the year’s most memorable moments, Wahlbrink said.
“What they took away was running onto the court and celebrating that,” she said. “They have created so many great memories.”
Last week’s Christmas parade was another high point.
The Canepa family had already planned to have a float in the event and at the last minute the team asked if they could ride on the trailer.
The Canepas agreed and the girls quickly made some signs.
“It was so special for them to have that small town community support,” Wahlbrink said.
That support helped them throughout the entire season, Wahlbrink said.
The Wildcats will lose five seniors this year: Riley Patterson, Sarah Rosasco, Molly O’Reilly, Valeria Galvez and Maddie Fong.
Patterson has signed a letter of intent to continue her volleyball career at the University of the Pacific.
“Riley Patterson has been our leader and we’re all excited to watch her go and succeed at UPO,” Wahlbrink said. “I know she’s going to go and do wonderful things.”
Sarah Rosasco was given the character award by her teammates this year.
Rosasco was a great team leader, said Wahlbrink.
She’s found success both on the volleyball court and on the track team. She hopes to find a school where she can pursue both.
Maddie Fong’s commitment to the team was on full display during the Los Gatos game. Wahlbrink calls it the best of her career. And it came despite the fact she was sick and coaches weren’t sure she would be able to play.
Molly O’Reilly came to the Wildcats last year as a transfer student from San Francisco.
She became a rare duel threat with her ability to play the setter and middle blocker positions, said Wahlbrink.
“(O’Reilly) ended up being a huge asset to our team,” Wahlbrink said.
Galvez was a two-year varsity player.
“She fought and fought for a starting position,” Wahlbrink said. “She was just a really fun player to have on the team.”
This time of year is always hard said Wahlbrink. Saying goodbye to the players she’s grown close to.
“It’s hard to imagine the team without them,” she said.
But she’s not concerned about how next year’s roster will fill out.
“Sophomores and juniors always rise to the occasion and surprise me,” she said.