Coming into the Thursday’s Senior Night volleyball match against Enterprise, Shasta knew it was playing for more than bragging rights over its cross-town rival. The Wolves were playing for their postseason lives.
Entering the match at 18-18 overall and 4-5 in Division III, Shasta needed a victory to ensure it met the .500 threshold in either overall record or its divisional mark to meet the postseason requirement.
And though the Wolves faced a 4-18 Enterprise squad that hadn’t won a set in Eastern Athletic League play and whose last victory was a 2-0 win over Lassen on Sept. 28, Shasta senior Courtney Oilar said there were a little nerves heading into the match.
“I didn’t want to be too confident coming in,” the Shasta senior said. “I just thought in the back of my head ‘What if Abby (Shoff) comes out swinging?’ ”
“You try not to be too confident.”
The Wolves wound up slicing through the Hornets 25-13, 25-23, 25-12 to ensure a postseason berth – Shasta draws 9-24 Las Plumas, which beat D-III teams Enterprise and Lindhurst, on Sept. 29. The winner advances to the Nov. 9 D-III Section Finals against No. 1 seed Foothill, the third leg of the D-III bracket. The Cougars won both EAL meetings with the Wolves this season – 3-1 and 3-0 – though Shasta played the first match without Oilar, who was sidelined with a broken bone in her hand.
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But first the Wolves needed to get past the Hornets.
Shasta blasted to a 7-3 lead early in the first set as Oilar and setter Britney Blomquist connected for three set-to-spikes before boosting the edge to 15-5 on an Alexa Hellman ace that forced an Enterprise timeout.
After the timeout, Blomquist found Oilar for four kills over the next five Shasta points and the home team bumped its lead to 20-11.
“I think me and her have this chemistry that we’ve been working on for three years,” Oilar said. “She trusts me to finish the rally and I trust her to put the ball where it needs to be to give me the opportunity.”
Oilar finished the first set with seven kills, Blomquist dished up 11 assists and Kayla Price (three), Trinity Hudson (two) and Ella Rodriguez (one) also got in on the act in the opening stanza.
But just as hot as the Wolves came out in the opening set, the Hornets flipped the script in the second set, taking a 6-1 lead before Wolves’ coach Todd Taylor was forced to call a timeout.
Shoff opened the set with a kill and added an ace before three Shasta hitting errors forced Taylor to halt the action.
“We were riding the senior night hype and in the second set Enterprise came out swinging,” he said. “We had to right the ship a little bit.
“I talked about calming down and that it was the hitting errors. I told them they know how to hit, so let’s start swinging and get back in it.”
The Wolves did, but the Hornets wouldn’t go quietly either. Three consecutive Wolves’ kills – Hudson, Price and Hudson – got Shasta to within three at 9-6, but every time the hosts looked for an equalizer, Enterprise would fend the Wolves off. Up 11-10, the Hornets dumped a winner over the net after a furious rally. Up 12-11, Enterprise moved to 13-11 after a Shasta hitting error.
But Blomquist and Oilar connected at 13-12 to knot the score at 13 and force a Hornet timeout. Later in the back-and-forth set, the Hornets went up 22-19 on another of Shoff’s five kills on the night before Oilar pounded three straight kills with a wicked pace to give the Wolves a 24-23 lead. An Enterprise hitting error ended the set and gave the Wolves a 2-0 lead.
“I’ve been sitting on the bench for like three weeks and it’s been killing me,” Oilar said of missing time with the bone hand. “Being back it felt so good and it (the time off) definitely fueled my aggression.”
With Enterprise’s best chance to flip the script falling short in the second set, the Wolves pounced in the third set, opening up leads of 9-3, 19-6 and eventually winning 25-12. But the victory wasn’t without a cost as Blomquist came down awkward on her ankle as the Wolves led 15-3 and had to be helped off the court.
Her status for the LP match remains up in the air, but Oilar hoping to be fully healthy for a possible Section Finals showdown against Foothill for the second straight year.
“I think we’ll see them at Sections and it’s something I look forward to now that I’m fully back,” she said. “I know I’ll be swinging at the top of my game.”
Blomquist finished the match with 32 kills, while Oilar paced the hitters with 17 kills. Hudson added nine kills, Price chipped in five and Rodriguez totaled four for the Wolves.
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