The focus is now on the state tournament for West Ranch Wildcats girls’ volleyball.
The top-seeded Wildcats took on their toughest opponent yet in Saturday’s CIF Division 4 semifinals road match with the El Dorado Golden Hawks.
El Dorado took the semifinals match in five sets, winning 25-26, 23-25, 22-25, 25-19, 15-7.
The Golden Hawks (28-6) were led by a pair of 19-kill performances from Emerson Ahsmuhs and Sofia Shine.
Sophomore Payton Durante also added 12 kills for the Hawks, giving Cats head coach Jamey Ker three tough opposing threats to deal with.
“We went down badly in the first. They were a very good team with three very good pins and a setter that could deliver the ball to any of them.”
El Dorado entered the match with a bang, and rattled West Ranch in the opening set. The Wildcats were in danger of going down 2-0 before the team made a certain adjustment for the first time this postseason.
“Through the second set we made an emotional adjustment more than anything,” Ker said. “The girls realized that to beat this team, we’d have to play our best, which hasn’t happened yet in our CIF run. It was nice to be motivated by a strong team on the other side.”
West Ranch won its consecutive sets to take a 2-1 lead against one of the toughest opponents it had faced all season.
“I told the girls all season that eventually we’re gonna face a team where we can’t focus our block on one or two specific girls. I think fortunately because we’ve had these conversations we got there. It took a set and a half but we got there. We were prepared to face a team with such a strong offensive force. We had not faced a team that looked like them throughout our whole season.”
Cats senior Kennedy Osunsanmi posted a match-high 28 kills in the loss. The senior also added two aces and seven digs.
West Ranch sophomore libero Alexandra Seres led the defense with 25 digs. Fellow sophomore setter Dani Clewis also stood out in the semifinals match, leading the team with two blocks and 39 assists.
El Dorado bounced back in the fourth and took a quick lead early in the fifth set to punch the team’s ticket to the CIF championship match.
West Ranch was upset on the road but can now look to the Southern Regional (state) tournament for redemption.
“I think that’s been the silver lining, we get to keep playing together,” Ker said. “If we go far or win state, it erases the sting of CIF. There’s that light at the end of the tunnel for us.”
The Cats are resetting with a couple days off this week. The team has basically been playing non-stop since mid-August and with the nearly year-round club season, Ker knew his team could use a break.
“It’s really important to be sensitized to the fact they’re people and students,” Ker said. “They’re worrying about college admissions and grades. Volleyball isn’t the end of the road for them.”
West Ranch will play again on Tuesday, and will find out its opponent Sunday morning when the CIF releases its regional brackets.