By Jeff Larson, Correspondent
RED BLUFF – For the majority of the first two sets, the Foothill girls volleyball team and Shasta were engaged in a back-and-forth struggle not separated by more than a few points Saturday in the showdown for the Northern Section Division III championship.
Like in so many instances a spark can be delivered by a simple play or athlete rising above themselves.
Foothill’s Lilly Caldwell made a couple one-handed stab digs in transition to help the top-seeded Cougars win points in the second set and more importantly set themselves forward to a three-set (25-19, 25-21, 25-9) sweep of league and playoff rival Shasta in the finale of section championship Saturday in Red Bluff.
The win snapped a three-year reign for Shasta (20-19) in the D-III finals.
“It was a lot of hustle, they say we’re a blocking team but we showed a lot of scrappiness in the back row,” Foothill coach Pablo Lana said.
Caldwell’s first defensive gem helped break an 8-all tie in the second set; the finale gave Foothill a 20-19 lead. The Cougars wouldn’t trail again, blowing out No. 2 Shasta, 25-9 in the close-out set.
“It gives you energy because you see that your teammates are going after everything,” Lana said. They’re setting the tone.”
Shasta coach Todd Taylor said while Foothill’s late-match surge was crucial, the Wolves had issues keeping pace with Foothill’s tough serves with an injured setter.
“We have a great passing group and their servers put a lot heat on them,” Taylor said. “They have a tough serve and our setter has a twisted ankle so whenever the balls were passed to the left she had to run those down and that was tough.”
Foothill (18-11) was led offensively by Presley Hamilton’s six kills, while sophomore rightside attacker Maddy Frick added five and a couple third-set blocks to put the finishing touches on the team’s first section title since 2015. Sarah Ault added four kills in the win.
“I give credit to Foothill, they played well,” Taylor said. “They had a really good block and put us on our heels.”
For Lana, the defensive hustle plays seemed to be the difference, a trait which he hopes can keep momentum moving forward as Foothill transitions to the NorCal state playoffs next week.
“It keeps the momentum moving forward and really sells the North State as to better volleyball (here)” Lana said. “Last year, Shasta got to the state final four and (Pleasant Valley) won two rounds in division II. North state volleyball is getting better and I am very proud of that.”
Shasta received a team-high five kills each from Sarah Arel and Courtney Oilar.
NorCal regional seeds are announced Sunday.
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