In a stunning upset on Thursday, the Clovis West Girls Volleyball team defeated Clovis North 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-12, 25-22) to book the Golden Eagle’s tickets to the Valley Championship game on Saturday.
This was the first loss all season to a TRAC opponent for the Broncos, who entered the match after gliding past Centennial 3-0 in the quarterfinals..
The seeds of this Golden Eagles victory were sewn long before the two teams gathered on the court, however.
As Clovis West’s Head Coach Rhonda DeRuiter explained, the first meeting between the two teams in September left the Golden Eagles with work to be done, but the task before them was not insurmountable.
“When we played them back in September, we knew that we needed to make some changes and change some positions to match up better,” DeRuiter said. “After that first matchup, it was like ‘ok, here is what we need to work on to match up better.’ I knew at that point we could get this done.”
With the game knotted at one set each, it left both teams facing a critical third set as they each looked to apply pressure onto the opposing side of the net.
The Golden Eagles took a hotly-contested point off after a long rally which gave them a 9-5 lead early in the set.
At the time, that 9-5 lead was one of the largest of the night, but the Golden Eagles were just getting started.
The Clovis West defense came alive at just the moment it needed to and would go on to hold the Broncos to just 12 points in the third set, silencing the home crowd and leaving a packed visitors section on its collective feet.
On their run to an eventual 25-12 win in the third set, the Golden Eagles players began to let smiles peek through for the first time on the night.
It was a noticeable shift in the team’s demeanor, which up to that point had been solemn and focused.
DeRuiter credited the team’s defense to their success in the third set, “I’ve been doing this for a long time and if I have a team that does not work hard on defense than that’s not a team of mine,” DeRuiter said.
The Broncos led much of the fourth and final set of the match, but a handful of forced errors opened the window for the Golden Eagles to take their first lead of the set at 18-17.
A Clovis North timeout late in the set would do little to slow the momentum of Clovis West, which went on to win the set and match.
Clovis North finishes its 2019 season with an overall record of 39-4. Two of its losses were to the teams that will now play each other for Valley Championship; Clovis West and Liberty High School.
“We’ve had a really up and down season, lots of injuries, lots of things even off the court that these girls have had to weather. They just found comfort in each other, getting to know each other and working hard,” DeRuiter said when explaining the inter-team relationship that has grown throughout the season.
“In those moments, when maybe a teammate makes a frustrating error they can look at that girl and know they gave them their best effort,” DeRuiter added.
Liberty will enter the championship game with a record of 27-5 — it will be the first meeting of the season for Clovis West and Liberty.