As the Valencia volleyball team took the floor at West Ranch High School for pregame warmups, polka music blasted through the speakers.
“It’s just kind of a thing we do now,” said West Ranch’s Olivia Hoffman. “We try and throw them off. I don’t know if it works, but it’s kind of funny, so we keep doing it.”
The polka music worked its magic on Tuesday night, as the Wildcats beat the Vikings in five games to preserve its undefeated Foothill League record and secure at least a share of the league title.
Valencia started off the match strong with a win in the first game. The Vikings jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but West Ranch was able to catch up and go point-for-point until the Vikes went on a five-point scoring run to secure a 12-10 lead.
West Ranch pulled ahead again on a kill from Allison Jacobs, but the lead was temporary. Valencia took the game 25-21 on a kill from Kaelyn White.
“In that set, I just think we came in and everyone did their jobs and executed everything perfectly,” said Valencia’s Jaela Bernard. “We just all worked together and kind of just came out and did what we had to do in that game and worked together really well.”
Valencia once again had an early lead in the second game. A six-point run that started with a tip from Gwen Garate put the Wildcats up 12-7. A double contact call slowed the momentum momentarily, but West Ranch quickly recovered and maintained the lead.
A kill from Bernard gave the Vikings a late boost of energy, but Jacobs put away the game 25-20 with a kill on the next play.
West Ranch led by seven points on one occasion in the third game, but the Vikings scored five straight points to close the gap to 12-9. Valencia never gained an advantage, though, and Hoffman aced a serve to win it 25-21.
“Whenever I go back there,” Hoffman said, “I see the girl that I’m going to serve at and I say in my head, ‘I’m going to ace you.’ That’s just constantly going through my mind because I want to ace her. I want to make her choke.”
Valencia wasn’t going to roll over so easily and got ahead early in the fourth game. Macy Kirkwood had a kill then tipped the ball to get her team a 7-3 lead and the Wildcats never caught up.
Kendall Thompson had the game-winning kill to bring the game score to 25-17 and force a fifth set.
West Ranch looked confident in the final game, steadily keeping consistent and forcing Valencia errors. The Wildcats won Game 5, 15-7, on a kill from Jacobs.
Valencia hosts Saugus in the Foothill League finale on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The Wildcats play at Hart at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in their last game of the Foothill League season as they hope to go undefeated in league play, with or without polka music.
“We totally can (go undefeated),” Hoffman said. “I can feel it.”