Going on the road in the playoffs is not supposed to be as easy as the Fountain Valley High girls’ volleyball team has made it look.
The Barons opened the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs with a sweep of San Joaquin League co-champion St. Margaret’s.
A second straight road contest to begin the playoffs was the Barons’ reward, although this one would have a level of comfort and familiarity.
Fountain Valley traveled to take on Rosary, where the Barons had previously won a tournament in September. In addition, the visitors brought a lively crowd to the match, one that cheered and stomped their feet for most of the afternoon.
Phoebe Minch had 26 kills to lead the Barons to a 24-26, 25-19, 25-23, 25-21 win over the host Royals on Saturday in a second-round match.
Fountain Valley (19-11) advanced to the quarterfinals, where it will have a home match against third-seeded Menifee Paloma Valley on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“It feels really good,” Barons coach Taylor Packer said of advancing to the quarterfinals. “I’m glad for the girls who are seniors to be able to experience it and kind of have school pride with it.”
Rachel Lucie, a three-year varsity player and the team’s libero, said that crowd support has been a major factor in the team’s success this year.
“I think that’s one of our biggest factors in why we win is because of all of the support and the loudness,” Lucie said. “Even though it’s their home gym, we still have all these people here supporting us.
“When we go home, there are going to be so many more people.”
Nerves appeared to take hold of the Barons at the start of the match. Fountain Valley fell behind 15-5 in Game 1, before rallying to earn two set points.
Sophia Lambros and Paige Hesseltine had two kills each, as Rosary (16-9) won the last four points of the set to jump into the early lead.
The setback did not halt the Barons’ momentum for long. Lucie dropped in two early service aces, and back-to-back blocks by Zoe Ziegler established an 18-12 edge for Fountain Valley in Game 2.
Minch authored a nine-kill set in Game 3, which was necessary to keep the Royals at bay. Daphne Ruffier and Lambros each had five kills in the set, but luck favored the Barons when Jenna Peterson’s serve caught the tape and fell on the other side of the net for an ace on set point.
“I think in the first set, we came out a little slow,” Minch said. “It might have been nerves because we have played [Rosary] before, so we might have been a little overconfident.
“We really need to start out better in games. Our serving in the first set definitely brought us back in the match.
“In the second set, and every other set, we just refocused and started the game over. We really worked together to just push to the end.”
Peterson finished with nine kills, four aces and 1½ blocks for Fountain Valley. Juliette Bokor had seven kills, three aces and two blocks. Sadie Templin added five kills, and Delaney Risse chipped in with two aces.
Lambros had a team-high 17 kills to go with 10 assists for Rosary. Ruffier had nine kills and three aces, and Sophia Degrassi delivered four aces.
The match-clinching kill also came from Minch on Lauren Mena’s 40th assist of the contest.
“This group definitely plays really well together,” Mena said. “I think we have a lot of confidence now, just because we’ve been playing together for a few years. It’s definitely helped.”
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