Over the past 15 seasons, the Fountain Valley High girls’ volleyball program had reached the postseason just twice.
Those playoff appearances, which came in 2013 and 2016, rendered no victories for the Barons.
During that time, the Barons did not enjoy the pleasure of playing at home in the postseason.
So even when the season came to an end on Wednesday night, the Barons had the support of the home crowd.
Fountain Valley had won over many fans on campus with one of its best seasons since it beat Capistrano Valley for the CIF Southern Section Division IA championship in 1996.
Senior outside hitter Phoebe Minch had a match-high 18 kills for the Barons, but third-seeded Menifee Paloma Valley earned a 25-21, 25-18, 25-22 sweep in the Division 3 quarterfinals.
“I thought it was really fun to have a playoff game at home instead of away because the people that came were really just here to cheer us on,” Barons junior middle blocker Juliette Bokor said. “It really helped with our energy on the court. It helped us to not get discouraged when we lost points or when [Paloma Valley] got on runs.
“It was just really fun because those are our friends and our families, and we saw them here. They were just really excited for us.”
Bokor had nine kills and 2½ blocks for the Barons (19-12). Junior setter Lauren Mena had 25 assists and four kills, and senior libero Rachel Lucie had eight digs.
“Juliette was a big asset [for] us tonight,” Barons coach Taylor Packer said. “Having her to be able to swing in the middle, our passes helped out a lot so we could set her.
“She was one of our other [hitters] who could get us points other than Phoebe.”
Three wide columns of the bleachers were filled to the top, end to end. The crowd anxiously awaited its chance to roar, but whenever the Barons made a run, the Wildcats (29-6) had an answer.
Wildcats coach Stephen Kaas said his team thrives under pressure and has fun playing in packed gyms.
“Their crowd made it easier for us, and it was awesome,” Kaas said. “Our kids feed off of it and have a fun time. In those quiet, dead gyms, we struggle, but in these environments, they have a good time.”
Lizzy Markovska had 17 kills to lead the Wildcats. Gabrielle Hollins had 13 kills and three service aces, Jayde Shelton added 10 kills and four blocks, and Olivia Karwin distributed 32 assists.
Rachel Lowe and Shannon Dunkin chipped in with 2½ blocks and two blocks, respectively.
After being stretched to five sets in the second round against Valencia West Ranch, Shelton said that defense keyed a more efficient performance for her team.
“We cleaned [our defense] up a lot better,” Shelton said. “We got our heads more in the game, so I feel like that’s the one thing that we truly changed.”
Last year, Paloma Valley advanced to the Division 5 final, losing in four sets to Ontario Christian. The Knights also eliminated the Wildcats from the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III playoffs.
Ontario Christian is the top seed in Division 3 this year, but before Kaas and the Wildcats can think about avenging a loss in the section final from a year ago, Paloma Valley will host Pasadena Poly (22-0) in the semifinals on Saturday. Ontario Christian is at home against Culvery City (26-7) in the other semifinal.
Fountain Valley’s season included a string of big wins on the road. The Barons clinched second place in the Wave League and punched their ticket into the postseason with a win at Marina in the league finale.
“I think we all finished it on a good note, and I don’t think anyone is upset about how it ended at all,” Packer said. “They just want to build for next year and get on top of that.”
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