Valencia volleyball beats West Ranch for first win of Foothill League season

Valencia junior Aly Grodell jumps up for a kill in a Foothill League matchup against West Ranch at West Ranch High School on Tuesday. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

After stumbling through the first week of Foothill League play and rearranging the lineup countless times, Valencia volleyball found salvation. It came in the form of a kill from Kendall Thompson.

Thompson’s kill put an exclamation point at the end of the Vikings’ third set against West Ranch for a win on Tuesday at West Ranch. It also was the final point in Valencia’s first win of the league season.

“It’s a little bit of relief, a little bit of excitement, a little bit of positive momentum,” said Vikes coach Ray Sanchez of the win.

Valencia (3-10 overall, 1-2 in Foothill League) has been searching for the right combination of players on the court since the start of preleague. The team has only one returning player who is playing the same position as last year Macy Kirkwood at middle and has brought up a handful of girls, including Thompson, from the JV ranks to try and get the right rhythm.

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“It’s youth, it’s new positioning, it’s a lot,” Sanchez said. “But they’re excited. And they’re great kids who work so hard. We’ve taken a beating this year.”

The Wildcats (1-8, 1-2) appeared to have an edge early on, taking a 4-1 lead in the first game. They managed to stay ahead until Valencia took the lead on a kill from Kirkwood.

Valencia managed to stay ahead for the remainder of the game, although West Ranch came within one point of tying the game on two different occasions throughout the rest of the frame.

“That was mostly the conversation (after the match),” said West Ranch coach Jamey Ker. “There was a lot of tactics that were being talked about but mostly saying ‘Hey, we’ve been handling adversity great right now, here’s this chunk of adversity, let’s continue to handle it as well right now than we did 10 points ago.”

Kaelyn White scored the game-winning point for a 25-20 win in the first stanza for the Vikings. White followed up in the next game with a kill that capped a 25-14 win.

Along with Aly Grodell making the switch to opposite from middle blocker last year, White is one Viking who is building her arsenal of skills through a position change. Last year, she was at setter. This year, she’s at outside hitter.

“I don’t know that anyone else in this league could be starting all-league setter one year as a sophomore and then come in the next year and be a really effective outside hitter,” Sanchez said. “She’s a very versatile player.”

The third game turned into a dogfight, with West Ranch clinging to a lead that extended to no more than four points at any moment. Valencia tied it at 6-6 before Sophie Bobal served up an ace to take back the advantage, then the Vikes tied it once more at 9-9.

Allison Jacobs executed a kill to pull the Cats ahead once more, but the Vikings tied it for a third and final time at 23-23 before sealing the game at 25-23 with kills from Grodell and Thompson.

Sanchez knows his team isn’t perfect, but Tuesday’s results and moments like Thompson’s game-winner indicate a trend in the right direction.

“We’ve just got to keep working and the excitement is there, we’re celebrating, we’re enjoying it, we’re savoring it but then we’ve got to get back to work tomorrow,” he said.

Valencia next hosts Saugus on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Up next for West Ranch is Hart on the same day and time at Hart.

West Ranch senior Sophie Bobal tips the ball over the net in a Foothill League matchup against Valencia at West Ranch High School on Tuesday. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

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