The U-Prep volleyball team huddles during the third set of their three-set sweep of Bentley in Thursday’s NorCal volleyball opening round. The Panthers host Woodland Christian on Thursday. (Photo by Aaron Williams / Shasta County Sports)
It took U-Prep roughly 70 minutes to sweep visiting Bentley of Lafayette 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 in the opening round of the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Division IV volleyball playoffs. To put that in context, the Phoenix probably spent that much time in traffic trying to leaving the Bay Area on Tuesday afternoon.
The win was a bit of redemption for the Panthers, having lost the Northern Section Division IV final in straight sets as a one-seed to No. 6 Pierce. Less than 72 hours after falling to the Bears, U-Prep, the four-seed in NorCal, advanced to play No. 5 Woodland Christian at home at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Cardinals were straight-set winners over No. 12 San Joaquin Memorial, 25-20, 25-19, 26-24.
U-Prep came out firing on Tuesday as junior setter Madi Friebel paced the Panthers with 10 assists in the 25-17 win, finding Madison Kremer for five kills and sister Kennedy Kremer for four kills.
“Gotta give credit to my hitters. They get up high,” Friebel said.
The set victory was a boost for Friebel, especially after U-Prep “kind of crumbled” on Saturday.
“It brought our confidence back up and got our groove back,” she said of the opening-set win.
The Phoenix, playing without leading hitter Katie Gunderman, tried to fight back in the second set, taking an early lead on An Olivia Anderson ace at 5-4. The teams see-sawed with neither gaining more than a three-point edge. U-Prep would go up 10-8 on a Kaleia Mizuta ace, but Bentley would answer back with a Thalia Hundt ace to give the Phoenix a 15-14 edge.
U-Prep took a 17-16 lead on a Kennedy Kremer kill off a Friebel assist and built the advantage to 22-18 after consecutive Emily Cox aces.
Kennedy Kremer finished the 25-20 win with an ace.
“I think we had to get back to what we’ve been doing all season,”U-Prep coach Tawni Kremer said. “Saturday we kind of let that go. We talked about staying positive and lifting each other up when we get down.”
The Panthers certainly weren’t down in the third set, pouncing out to a 12-5 lead on a Friebel-to-Madion Kremer kill. And while the home team was the aggressors, the Phoenix made their share of blunders, committing eight hitting errors in the third-set loss along.
“We came in this (game) having to adjust and adapt,” the coach said, adding they weren’t sure of what Bentley was going to bring. “That’s something that we didn’t do on Saturday, we didn’t adjust or adapt.”
U-Prep looked to close the match out convincingly after Friebel found each of the Kremers for kills to put the Panthers up 20-10, but the focus waned a bit and the Phoenix crept to within nine at 23-14, forcing Tawni Kremer to call a timeout.
“Let’s get back to Panther volleyball,” the coach said of the timeout message to get squad.
A Madison Kremer kill gave the home team match point and Ashlee Kraft capped the night with a kill off a long Bentley return, spiking the ball with authority that send her team – and the Panther mascot – rushing the floor in celebration.
“That was an awesome way to end the game,” coach Kremer said.