West Ranch’s Gwen Garate felt like her serving was off all night. Quartz Hill had forced her team to five games and in that final game, her serving didn’t feel any better.
There was a little pressure when she was up to serve as her team clung to a 15-14 lead in Game 5.
“I just thought, ‘I missed my last two serves and I just cannot miss this one. I’m going to hit the target (coach) Jamey (Ker) gave me.’ That was the only thing going through my head,” Garate said. “Hit the target Jamey gave me.”
She tossed it up, then slammed it down in the center of the Rebels’ back row for an ace to win the game 16-14 and get the Cats their second win in two days.
Garate was one of myriad players who elevated their game on Wednesday night at West Ranch. For example, Erin Eskoff contributed three kills and an ace in the fifth game.
“She always like, makes me a better setter,” Garate, who had 15 assists, said of Eskoff. “She’s so good, she’s so talented and she got so many kills tonight and I owe it all to her and she makes me look good, so I love that, but she’s awesome. Her life is volleyball and it really shows.”
The Wildcats were without starting outside hitter and UCLA commit Allison Jacobs, who was en route to Egypt for the FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship on Wednesday. West Ranch wanted to get a win in her absence and worked under pressure to achieve it.
The Cats wrapped up a win in Game 1 after going on a seven-point scoring run for a 25-15 result.
Quartz Hill picked up three points to start the second game, but West Ranch was able to rally and get ahead 5-4 on a tip from Aaryn Brink. It remained in the lead until midway through the game when a handful of errors forced it to go point-for-point with the Rebels until the end of the game.
The Rebels put away a 25-23 win with a kill and an ace.
“If we make less errors than the other team, then we’re going to win, right? It’s especially true with us,” said Ker. “We tend to allow ourselves to make too many errors and the problem is that those errors happen immediately one after another.”
The Wildcats were able to bounce back in the third game. It was close until a kill from Eskoff tied it up at 12-all, followed by two more points scored on Quartz Hill errors. Eskoff had a tip shortly after to make it 15-13, then the Cats took off until the scoreboard read 25-20.
West Ranch was able to bring the score close towards the end of the fourth game, despite committing multiple errors. Quartz Hill forced a fifth game with back-to-back blocks to win Game 4, 26-24.
Kaitlyn Jizmejian started West Ranch off with an ace in the fifth set, added to a breakout performance that she was already having on defense.
“She’s naturally a very, very quiet person and she ended up playing a lot of her best matches this season because she let herself come out of her shell a little bit,” Ker said. “I said ‘Hey, you don’t have a choice. You have to do it in this game,’ and she said ‘Okay’ and she totally stepped up, gave me more energy than I’ve seen her give ever.”
The Cats got an 8-4 lead on one of Eskoff’s 12 kills on the evening, but the Rebels battled back to tie it at 10-10 on a block. The score was knotted repeatedly until a Kyla Waugh kill set up Garate for her game-winning ace.
“When you’re in the high-pressure situations in volleyball and you know that you have one point that your team can’t miss it, it just gives you adrenaline running through your body just to get those last balls that you wouldn’t get before and I think we had that through the whole last game,” Garate said.
“We thought, ‘We have to get this ball, we have to hit the floor, we have to put a bit of effort into it. That really put us above Quartz Hill.”
West Ranch next plays Sierra Canyon on Sept. 5 at home at 5:30 p.m.
Valencia 3, Oxnard 0
Aly Grodell led the Vikings in kills with 14 and Kaelyn White added six in Tuesday night’s game against Oxnard. White also logged 15 assists and 14 digs.
Valencia next plays Colusa on Friday.