In every game of Golden Valley volleyball’s home match against California City on Thursday, they trailed at the start. But in each of those games, the Grizzlies came out on top to sweep the Ravens 3-0 in their season opener. “Once we get past the nerves, we just go out there,” said middle blocker Ashley Rens. “We can’t just wait around and think we’re going to lose. We can never give up.” Rens also contributed some of the team’s positivity to their new coach, Jack Johnson, who took over the team in March.
Golden Valley took a backseat in the first game, then capitalized on California City mistakes to get ahead by three points. The Ravens came back and appeared to have the edge until Sofia Mitchell executed a kill that tied the game at 23-all, boosting her team’s confidence to finish out the game at 25-23. It was a near identical situation in the second game. The Ravens eclipsed the Grizzlies 16-8 midway through. But once again, the game knotted at 23-23 when Rens blocked a California City hit. That led to another 25-23 score. “With the Den (student section) here, it was just so exciting to see everybody cheering,” Rens said of the moment. “We really had to block (California City’s Chloe Emory) because she was huge compared to us and we just really had to cover our blocks.” Mitchell and Rens provided a strong net presence whether they were blocking or hitting. Other players on the team have the ability to play multiple positions, too. “We’re not the tallest team in the league, but we have really skilled players that are interchangeable and in fact, both (Mitchell and Rens) can play outside if I need them to, they can basically play anywhere on the court,” Johnson said. “Everybody on the team plays more than one position.” The Grizzlies applied pressure in the final frame, pushing the Ravens to make mistakes when it counted to take Game 3, 26-24. Kaylie Lopez led the team with five kills. Sam Jarrah had seven digs and Rens had three blocks. Jordan Nunez and Melanie Nicholson each had six assists.