Nothing seemed in favor of Golden Valley Grizzlies girls’ volleyball on Monday. The team played poorly in its last matchup with the Valencia Vikings, was barely alive in the playoff hunt and was without star outside hitter Megan Moreno due to a minor non-volleyball injury.
But somehow, some way, the Grizzlies found a way and defeated Valencia in a five-set roller coaster of a match.
Golden Valley won its senior-night match, 25-21, 27-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-13, marking the team’s first victory over the Vikings in five years. The win also puts the two teams in a tie for fourth place in the Foothill League, meaning the Grizzlies may be heading to the playoffs for the first time in program history.
The Grizzlies were led by junior Sophie Smith, who poured in a match-high 14 kills.
The season was on the line in the fifth set for the Grizzlies. Senior Marina Miranda went back to serve with the score tied at 6-6. Miranda delivered in the clutch and sparked a 6-0 run with some tough serving and one ace, which led to a commanding lead in the fifth.
Miranda typically plays in the middle or at opposite hitter but was asked by coach Sean Parchejo to step in at the outside spot in Moreno’s absence.
“Marina, our senior middle, stepped up to replace Megan,” Parchejo said. “She passed well. She wasn’t as terminal on the outside because she’s been hitting in the opposite and in the middle all season, but I’m so happy. She crosstrained and she was great today.”
Miranda finished the game with four kills and three aces.
“We wanted it so bad,” Miranda said. “In four years of being at Golden Valley, I’ve never been able to beat Valencia. Being able to do that on my senior night is the best thing in the world.”
The Grizzlies feasted off Valencia’s mishaps in the fifth set, a common occurrence throughout the match. Golden Valley stayed ready for anything and, while holding match point, Smith delivered her final kill to seal the deal.
Golden Valley and the Vikings entered Monday night’s Foothill League contest needing a win for a shot at the playoffs.
The Grizzlies were fierce in the opening set and came out with a ton of energy. The ball moved around well as six different Grizzlies registered kills in the first set, including the set-point kill from senior M’Lauine Sulzer-Sanchez.
Valencia was forced to swap around players in the second set after an early injury to libero Addison Degard. The Vikes had different starting lineups in each set, trying to adjust without their back row anchor and slow down Golden Valley.
The Vikings forced the second set to go past 25 points but more unforced errors gave the Grizzlies a 2-0 lead.
Valencia sparked early and late in the third set, facing a potential sweep. The Vikings found rhythm on the net and on the end line with another different lineup and forced a fourth set.
The Grizzlies again slumped and fell into a 14-8 hole in the fourth game but surged back on a 4-0 run, partially thanks to two aces from setter Naomi Smith. The Vikes again found ways to win with their backs against the wall and forced a fifth set. Suddenly Valencia had all of the momentum, not long after being down 0-2, but Parchejo’s team had an answer and flipped the switch.
“I was very nervous when Valencia came back because then they had full momentum,” Parchejo said. “There was some urgency that my kids felt. They looked at each other and they said, ‘We really want to win and we’re doing it for the seniors.’ I’m really, really proud of them.”
Parchejo was able to utilize the bulk of his roster in a must-win match. Golden Valley had multiple defensive specialists and a back-up setter all ready to step in at any moment to help the team.
“My whole squad, every single one in my lineup, including the bench, was ready and made me feel comfortable,” Parchejo said. “I would look over at my bench to see if I would need an adjustment and they always made me feel better.”
The teams have split head-to-head matches and now will await the results of the final week of regular-season play to see their postseason paths become clearer.
The monumental win for the Grizzlies could pay dividends in the playoffs, especially when the team returns to full strength with Moreno.
“I think we just did well without Megan, our star outside, but we are definitely adjustable,” Miranda said. “As much as we wanted her here tonight, I feel like we did great without her and I love her. I feel like this gives us some excitement, something more to look forward to and more determination to go further.”
Valencia wraps up league play but returns to action at the Chatsworth Varsity Invitational this weekend.
Golden Valley also heads to into non-league action and will take on the Gorman Learning Charter Eagles on Wednesday before wrapping up the season at West Ranch on Thursday.
Both matches are set for 5:30 p.m.
While there may be plenty more wins for both Valencia and Golden Valley, Miranda just hopes to enjoy the rest of her time with her team.
“I just want to be with them on the court,” Miranda said. “I’m never gonna be able to do that anymore. I just want to enjoy it with them and have a good time.”