Costa Mesa girls’ volleyball holds serve versus Estancia in first Battle for the Bell match
After two years away from the volleyball court due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Costa Mesa High School outside hitter Lorelei Hobbis said she wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to the renewal of the Battle for the Bell rivalry.
The time apart could have resulted in that excitement fizzling out. Once the players were out on the court for Thursday’s match, it was evident that the opposite had happened.
The atmosphere was one of pent-up energy and enthusiasm being released.
Costa Mesa defeated Estancia 25-16, 33-31, 25-20 in an Orange Coast League girls’ volleyball match, earning a big win at home in a contest that featured two teams having great seasons.
Hobbis had a match-high 17 kills for the Mustangs (12-4, 3-1 in league), who are ranked sixth in the CIF Southern Section Division 7 poll.
“It’s always a possibility that after such a drought, you think that feud is going to die out, but I think because we didn’t have any games last year, everyone was showing up,” Hobbis said. “We were building up over the break. It was perfect.”
Rosey Madriaga had 14 assists and seven digs for Costa Mesa. Middle blockers Hana Batlik and Kaitlyn Yagerlener each provided two blocks. Outside hitter Abby Johnson and libero Tori Villarreal had seven digs apiece.
“I think my teammates made me so hyped, and they’re so supportive of me,” Madriaga said. “The crowd today really hyped us up, and our talking was really great, too.”
It was a house divided inside the Costa Mesa gym, but a vocal crowd was united in its desire to see their teams through to a victory over their crosstown rival. The sides alternated cheers throughout an extended second set.
Estancia coach Alejandro De Mendoza aimed to change the momentum when he called a timeout with his team trailing 20-18, and the Eagles responded with five consecutive points to take a 23-20 advantage. Ball control was the ally of the Eagles (12-2, 2-2) during the run.
Hobbis knotted the score at 23-23 when she reached behind her and was able to poke a roll shot to a vacated left sideline, setting up a dramatic finish to the set.
At last, it was Costa Mesa that converted its eighth set point of Game 2 to take a two-set lead in the match. A Lucero Islas serve that could not be sent back over secured the key point for the Mustangs.
“I thought they did great,” Costa Mesa coach Jillian Rifkin said of her team. “We’ve talked a lot in practice the last couple of weeks about limiting our errors, and I think especially with some of our hitters, we really saw them make some smarter choices, which helps with us and our team.
“I expected the game to be tooth-and-nail, down-to-the-wire. If you look at our schedule and their schedule and our records, I expected the games to be really close, so even though the outcome maybe doesn’t look close, it felt very close the whole game.”
Ruby Uchytil paced the Eagles with 15 kills. Joanna Santosuosso added eight kills, and Sydney Bilderback had four kills for Estancia. Makena Ray distributed 26 assists.
Estancia, which is ranked ninth in Division 7, began the season on a 10-match winning streak. Both of the Battle for the Bell rivals showed promise in the first half of league by taking a set against Calvary Chapel, which had won 24 consecutive Orange Coast League matches coming into Thursday.
“From the eye test, we’re responding the way we should be,” De Mendoza said. “We’re taking a step back, evaluating what went wrong, and we just learn from it. I tell these girls every day, ‘We’re either going to win or we’re going to learn.’”
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