The Sonora High School varsity girls volleyball team endured what’s become a rarity for them –- a loss.

They fell in five sets to El Dorado High School in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III championship match Saturday, 25-21, 20-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-10.

To call it disappointing would be an understatement, but head coach Amy Wahlbrink is confident the team is prepared to learn and improve.

El Dorado wasn’t on anyone’s playoffs radar. They were seeded No. 10. Sonora was No. 1.

“It started great even though they (Sonora) lost the first set,” Wahlbrink said. “It was not a panic loss.”

The game would come down to who made the fewest errors.

And Saturday that was the Cougars.

“They didn’t make a lot of errors. They were very good,” Wahlbrink said. “They made it hard for us to get kills.”

They also found a hole in the Wildcat defense and capitalized on it, Wahlbrink said.

Offensively the ‘Cats struggled to get kills against a robust Cougar defense.

“They were a very well rounded team and strong on defense. They just didn’t make a lot of errors,” she said.

Despite the loss, senior Riley Patterson had another standout night on the court.

She had 21 kills, 33 digs and five aces.

Molly O’Reilly added 13 kills.

Going into the final set, Wahlbrink said the ‘Cats played a little timidly.

And as the teams jockeyed for position on the scoreboard, it would come down to a five-point differential.

“Our defense just didn’t have their best game,” she said. “We were afraid.”

Wahlbrink’s message to the team was a positive one after the game.

“Despite the frustration that we were going to feel and the morning, the sun is going to come up tomorrow,” she said. “We still have a chance to become a better team.”

They’ll have that chance tonight when they meet Head-Royce in the first round of the CIF State Girls Division III Volleyball Championships.

They earned their way in by finishing as a top four team in their division.

Sonora had been hoping for a seed higher than the No. 11 they were given. They wanted the chance to play at home.

Instead they’re on the road in Oakland.

They’ll take the positives from their loss, tinged with perhaps a bit less pressure to keep their winning streak going.

Ahead of tonight’s game they’re focusing on improving their already sturdy offense.

And they will rely on defense to show up and play their game.

The one that helped earn them the league title and a perfect league record.

They’re facing a tough Head-Royce squad toinght at 7 p.m..

They were the Division V state champions last year.

Wahlbrink said they’ve got a strong outside blocker and a strong middle hitter. But they’re beatable.

“We can beat them. My girls do have the confidence,” said Wahlbrink.

“They’re excited to have this little chance at redemption.”