By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
A new feeling has swept over the Clovis East volleyball team, and what a sweet feeling it is.
In an 8-day stretch the Timberwolves (31-8, 9-1) won a TRAC volleyball championship and advanced to the semi-finals of the D-1 Central Section playoffs with a hard-fought victory over rival Buchanan, an accomplishment four years in the making – ever since senior setter Christina Tran and outside hitter Thaliana Granjeda took their lumps as on varsity as freshman.
“We have great kids and they’re really tight,” coach Vicki Samarin said after their victory over Clovis West on November 3, clinching at least a share of the TRAC title. “They made the turn from ‘We are not supposed to win’ to ‘That’s what we do now, we win.”
And it shows.
First, it was beating perennial power Clovis West in four games on Nov. 3–on Senior Night—then wrapping up an outright TRAC championship by whipping Central in three games two days later.
And second, as the No. 2 seed they put scare into the same home crowd by falling in the first game 25-15 and were two points from going down 0-2 before rallying in five games to beat Buchanan. A close call for the ‘Wolves, and thank goodness for those senior leaders.
A game, where last year, in Coach Samarin’s opinion: “We would not have had the confidence to come back and win.”
The Bears, the No. 7 seed who they had handled with ease in their two previous games 3-0 and 3-0, had the ‘Wolves on the ropes, holding a 2-1 game edge entering the fourth game. But riding the tenacity of Tran and the power play of Granjeda, Clovis East refused to fold, winning game four 25-17 and closing out the fifth game in dominating fashion 15-8.
“I tried so hard to convert that nervous energy into aggressive play,” said Tran of being down early. “I think being down made us work harder, and work hard for each other.”
Granjeda, the powerful hitter and middle blocker attending San Jose State on scholarship tallied 13 kills and six blocks while Tran registered 38 assists, and spark plug Abby Edwards added two aces, seven kills, and five blocks.
Coach Samarin praised the play of Buchanan senior Brooks Watts, who’s earlier in the day officially signed with Biola University, and who capped off an amazing career in a losing effort with 22 kills and 17 digs.
But it was the ability for the ‘Wolves to shut out the noise and stay focused that propelled them to the semi-finals.
“They (Buchanan) brought their game but we had a great group of seniors who refused to go down,” said Samarin. “Mentally we were able to stay calm and concentrate on winning one point at a time, and not worry about having to make up five points at a time.”
Clovis East is scheduled to play Centennial High from Bakersfield on Tuesday, Nov. 17, with the finals held in Lemoore on Nov. 19