Just a week away from playoffs, the Riverside City College volleyball team had their eyes set on the Saddleback College Gauchos.
Making a comeback win against Fullerton College a few days earlier, a win against Saddleback would surely secure their chances of entering the playoffs as the number four team in the conference.
RCC made sure not to let this one slip away as they easily put away Saddleback in a three set sweep 25-15, 25-18, 26-24.
The Tigers definitely upped their all around play, focusing on team communication as well as defense. The team was well in tune calling balls and diving to the floor in instances they probably would not have before.
They felt confident in winning the match no matter what Saddleback threw at them. “We pulled together as a team and things were clicking better than they normally did,” said Savannah Breazile, the team’s outside hitter.
One can say this great play stemmed from an extraordinary come from behind win the previous game at Fullerton, where RCC went down the first two games but rallied to win the final three. Winning the Fullerton game was the first step for the Tigers push into the playoffs.
Coming off the win against Fullerton took off a lot of the pressure to beat Saddleback.
“If we would have lost to Fullerton, I would have been a nervous wreck against Saddleback,” said coach Monica Hayes-Trainer.
RCC came out strong against the Gauchos easily taking the first game with smart plays and quick thinking.
Hayes-Trainer gives a great deal of credit to setter Brittney Diffini, who had 37 sets for point winners.
“Brittney is doing a great job leading the team, we’re very happy with her leadership on the court and the decisions she has to make with whom to set; it’s a lot of responsibility,” Hayes-Trainer said.
RCC continued their hot streak starting out sharp in the second game with great defense. The Gauchos though, started to pick it up and came close to tying it up.
RCC’s aggressiveness at the net proved to be the deciding factor in the Tigers going up two games to none.
Middle blocker Amanda Vialpando dominated overall with thirteen kills to add to her stats despite injuring her ankle the day before at practice.
Fellow middle blocker, Erynn Cook, unquestionably gives Vialpando the game ball for her effective game play.
“Amanda stood out a lot to me, she just got hurt and she was still able to get thirteen kills,” said Cook. “To me, she’s always been an inspiration because no matter what the circumstances, no matter how bad she is, she keeps her head in the game and it makes me want to be a better player.”
The Tigers looked very weak beginning the third game. Their defense was lacking and they were serving balls into the net.
They instantly noticed they were becoming a little too comfortable with their two game lead, and suddenly began playing volleyball again.
This team out of everyone should know about not getting too comfortable on the opposition, because they definitely took full advantage when Fullerton got a little too comfortable with their lead on the Tigers.
Being tied 24-24, the Tigers knew they needed to just put it away.
“After we pulled together we said, ‘We’re going to be aggressive and we’re going to get these last points,'” Breazile said.
The Tigers went on to take the third game and the match.
Despite the scare in the final game, Hayes-Trainer was in high spirits after taking them in straight sets.
“I was very pleased with three, and when they tied us up at 24-24, I was pleased that my players just knew enough was enough and put an end to it,” Hayes-Trainer said.
Hayes-Trainer said she’s very proud of how her players have performed and is surprised at how much they handle during practice.
“Out of all of the teams, we are one of the few that have three hour long practices, and we stay the whole three hours at a very intense pace,” said Hayes-Trainer. “A lot of other teams would have burned out already, but we haven’t.”
Not only beating Saddleback, but sweeping them only gave the Tigers more confidence to finish off the season strong heading into the playoffs.
Cook believes the Tigers can matchup against anyone that comes their way.
“I think looking at all the teams, we’re the most fit, we’re the most athletic,” Cook said.
Hayes-Trainer seemed enthusiastic about the competition ahead.
“I’m excited to compete against somebody else, I’m tired of this conference for the moment, and right now, I’m ready for some new blood.”
Cleared for takeoff (Daniel Torres / Asst. Sports Editor)