Clovis East volleyball rises up, makes history with Valley title

By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor

At Valley championship match point, senior setter Christina Tran had a vision: Pass, set (by her) and spike by one of her teammates.

But, to her surprise, they received a gift, as Liberty-Bakersfield served it just wide. Easy as pie, with a cherry on top – a Central Section Division 1 volleyball title, the first in the school’s history.

From the possible to probable to elation, the No. 2 Clovis East volleyball team capped off an amazing season, winning the first Central Section Division 1 title with a dominating win over No. 1 seed Liberty-Bakersfield 25-20, 25-18, 25-22 at West Hills College in Lemoore.

After winning the TRAC and two nail-biting five-set playoff wins over Buchanan and Centennial, the Timberwolves spent plenty of energy and emotion getting to the title match. But even head coach Vicki Samarin was surprised how well her No. 2 seeded team played.

Photo by Nick Baker Clovis East setter Christina Tran blocks a kill attempt by Centennial in their semi-final win, sending them to the Valley championship game where they defeated another Bakersfield school, Liberty. Senior Thaliana Grajeda and Tran led the 'Wolves all season with their strong play and leadership.
Photo by Nick Baker
Clovis East setter Christina Tran blocks a kill attempt by Centennial in their semi-final win, sending them to the Valley championship game where they defeated another Bakersfield school, Liberty. Senior Thaliana Grajeda and Tran led the ‘Wolves all season with their strong play and leadership.

“I was stunned,” said Samarin. “We were in control of the match from the start to finish. I was waiting for the momentum to swing the other direction.”

It never did, and the ‘Wolves (33-9) brought their “A+” game into the title game – a recipe for success – especially with senior outside hitter Thaliana Grajeda and setter Christina Tran on your side.

Grajeda, who officially signed with San Jose State, had 14 kills and Tran registered 30 assists, 9 digs and two aces. Both put in their dues since their freshman year on varsity.

Samarin praised the play of all the seniors: “They really stepped it up and never lost focus.”

Taking advantage of a stunned Liberty team, Clovis East battled back in game two from a 10-6 deficit and in game three 13-10 for the sweep, setting off a wild celebration – and a feeling long remembered.

“I was extremely emotional to finally accomplish our goal of making history,” Tran said. “I was ecstatic.”

Despite going on the road and losing in a hard-fought five game match against the No. 16 team, Redondo Union, in the nation on Nov. 24, Tran is proud of what the 2015 Clovis East volleyball team accomplished.

“I wanted to make it a goal for my team to leave behind a legacy,” said Tran. “Having the chance to do that this season was a blessing. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

Coach Samarin added: “I truly enjoyed watching the girls celebrate their victory and enjoy the success that they so deserve. This team continually improved throughout the season, they wanted to be great.”