Wildcats girls volleyball uses fast start to sweep Hart

West Ranch senior Allison Jacobs bumps the ball in a Foothill League Matchup with Valencia at Valencia High School earlier this season. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Up two games to none, West Ranch girls volleyball player Allison Jacobs got a look in her eyes as the Wildcats trailed Hart 24-23 in the third game in a Foothill League match at West Ranch on Thursday. 

Jacobs tied the game 24-24 with a kill and retook the lead with another kill before Hart committed an error to complete the three-game sweep of the Indians: 25-17, 30-28, 26-24.

With the win, the Wildcats are the only undefeated team left in the Foothill League.

“There’s no way this is going to four,” Jacobs said to herself in the final points of the match. “Someone has to end this, I have to end this. There was no reality in my head that we went to four, we were sweeping them no matter what.”

The Wildcats (15-3 overall, 5-0 in Foothill League) began the match on fire and jumped out to an 11-6 lead after a Jacobs hit that bounced off an Indians player and hurled back over the net towards West Ranch’s Funmi Idowu, which she finished with a kill.

Down 19-11, Hart’s Ruby Duncan and Kylie Tengberg sparked a 5-0 Indians run to get within four points, but couldn’t overcome the lead down the stretch, as the team committed three unforced errors in the final six points of the first game.

Duncan and Tengberg each finished the match with nine kills.

The second game began eerily similar to the first game with Jacobs leading the charge as the Wildcats took a 4-0 lead.

Battling back, Hart (7-5, 4-1) played smart, team ball and rallied to tie the game at 7-7 and took its first lead of the game 9-8 after a rotation violation by the host team.

With the lead in hand, Indians outside hitter Megan Soto delivered an ace and after a West Ranch net violation, the Indians had their biggest lead of the match up 15-11. 

The hole got deeper for West Ranch as Soto recorded her second ace of the game after a Wildcats timeout and Lina Elsee added an ace of her own to make it 19-13 in Hart’s favor.

West Ranch’s Gwen Garate and Kaitlyn Jizmejian recorded aces and sparked a 5-0 run, helping the Wildcats storm back to tie the game at 24-24,  forcing Hart to call a timeout.

“Everybody is stepping up their game big time, especially Kaitlyn Jizmejian’s defense, it’s been so fun watching and playing with her,” Jacobs said. “Gwen’s enthusiasm is infectious, we have a bond for sure.”

After four grueling tie-break points, an Indians hitting error coupled with a Wildcats kill brought an end to the second game. 

“The cohesiveness of this unit is starting to show itself quite a bit,” West Ranch head coach Jamey Ker said. “We have been adopting the mantra of 15 versus six, it’s all 15 of our girls versus six of their girls. The non-starting girls have done a phenomenal job of being a part of that and adopting that mantra and so when we get into tight situations like that, they don’t feel all that tight because you have a supporting cast behind you.”

Feeding off the momentum from the second game win, West Ranch’s Erin Eskoff smoked an ace down the sideline to begin the third game and forced an Indians timeout down 6-1.

Out of the timeout, the Wildcats got ahead of themselves and committed a service error and two hitting errors to give the Indians some life. 

Hart tied the game at 8-8 with an Audrey Welch ace, but then things went sour for the Indians, as they gave up 10 of the next 15 points to go down 18-13 and called a timeout.

Slowly but surely the Indians clawed their way back into the game in a comeback effort and tied it at 21-21.

Trading point-for-point, Hart took its last lead of the match 24-23 before Jacobs and the Wildcats took over and clinched the win.

“This is our best performance of the year,” Ker said. “The fact that we swept Hart, we shouldn’t have been able to do that unless we came out doing what we did and we came out firing on all cylinders. It was nice to have that get proven to the girls, to say if we come out with that fire and we get there first, there’s no stopping that train.”

Hart’s Grace Eck led the team with 32 assists and Soto led with 13 kills.

Both teams are back in action on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. as West Ranch hosts Canyon and Hart heads home to face off against Saugus. 

“We are still going to work on the things that we normally do,” said Hart head coach Mary Irilian. “Taking info about the other teams that we play and controlling our side and being consistent. We missed quite a few serves tonight, especially with some delays in the game or timeouts. Blocking lineups, but other than that, it’s just the same old stuff and keep working on everything.”

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