Whether it was the late start because of Senior Night or still feeling out a new lineup while playing volleyball in April, the Shasta Wolves started slow Thursday night against Red Bluff. But the time they found themselves in a 1-0 hole, the hosts began to settle in, forget the pageantry of the night and just play.
After a sloppy first set, the Wolves (3-2) rebounded for a 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-16 victory over the Spartans (2-4). The two teams came into Thursday’s Eastern Athletic League contest looking up at unbeaten Foothill, hoping to grab the second seed prior to next week’s shortened postseason.
In the opening set, the Wolves had nine hitting errors and didn’t look comfortable receiving the Spartans’ serves, as the visitors combined the miscues with three aces and a handful of returns to get in the flow of their offense.
Amber Bowling paced the seven-player Spartan squad with a pair of assists and a pair of kills in the opening stanza and Grace Gallagher and Mary Cottier each added two kills. Red Bluff finished off the first-set win with a Bowling to Cottier dish and spike that spun along the net before falling on the Wolves’ side.
“We weren’t talking and communicating like we’re used to,” said Shasta senior Britney Blomquist. “Once we fixed that, we were fine.”
The communication started picking up on the home side, but Shasta, which beat Red Bluff 3-0 earlier in the shortened season, hung with the hosts and never let the edge get larger than three. IN fact, the Spartans jumped out to 6-1 edge on a Bowling kill off a long Shasta return. But the Wolves regrouped and mounted the charge starting with a Blomquist assist to Trinity Hudson for the kill.
Blomquist, who has been the setter for the past few years, finds herself in a dual role of setter and hitter. The lone six-rotation player in the Wolves’ set, Blomquist sets when freshman Izzy Song is on the bench and slides over to hitter when the rotation moves her to the front. The senior finished with 15 assists and a team-high 13 kills on the night, while Song added 15 assists.
“I’ve helped her out a lot and worked with Izzy quite a bit and hope to help her even more before I leave,” Blomquist said. “She’s doing great as a freshman.”
The freshman-to-senior combo proved fruitful as the second set wore on with Song and Blomquist teaming for two consecutive points. Up 20-19, the duo pushed the lead to two and then senior Rondi Elo made a great play on a Red Bluff serve that allowed the second Blomquist kill to push the edge to 22-19. Two hitting errors several plays later trimmed the edge to 24-23 before Blomquist, in the setting role, found the Wolves’ other freshman, Elle Weaver, for one of her nine kills to knot the match at 1-set apiece.
“Those two (freshmen) are going to be great,” Blomquist said. “They’re still learning the speed of the game at varsity.”
The third set saw another back-and-forth contest as serving errors hampered each team’s ability to string together a run. The Wolves were up 17-13 before a service error and Gallagher kill moved the visitors within two, but three hitting errors over the next five points put Shasta up 20-17. Seven of the sets final nine points were decided by hitting errors with Cottier poking one wide on set point to give Shasta the 2-1 edge.
In the deciding set, the Wolves seemed to wake up and left no doubt pulling to leads of 5-2, 10-6, 14-10 before finishing the match with the 25-16 victory.
“We got our flow going,” Blomquist said. “We’re very energy driven and once we start talking and feel that we play well together.”
In the final set, Blomquist had five of her 15 assists, finding Kayla Price for a trio of kills, while Weaver and Hudson each found the bottom of the floor. Hudson, who had seven kills, landed Nos. 6 and 7 on the matches final two points.