It all came down to one night in the Clovis High School gym between the two best boys volleyball teams in the Tri-River Athletic Conference; the Clovis Cougars and the Clovis East Timberwolves.
After back-to-back close finishes for the Cougars in the Valley Championship, including losing a heartbreaker to Buchanan last season in the final, Clovis took home the elusive Central Section Division I Championship with a 25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 25-16 score line.
“We came up short in the past couple of years, but we did it tonight and I’m proud of my team, Clovis head coach Richard Lake said. “They battled all night and even though we lost the third set to a really good Clovis East team, we found a way to come back in the fourth set and take control.”
Despite the past, the Cougars relished this opportunity and put on a show in front of the packed Cougar gym. From acrobatic hits, to point-saving rallies, the Cougars were on top of their game throughout.
Against a strong team in Clovis East, who upset one of the top teams in the Clovis North Broncos, the Cougars had to play well, and they did.
Led by Samuel Johnson, David Hawkins, Grant Lake, among others, Clovis won the first two sets, before dropping the third to Clovis East, ultimately winning its final fourth set for the overall match win.
Clovis might’ve had the momentum after the first two, but the Timberwolves stormed back behind the play of Angelo Le. Le was the most consistent player for Clovis East in a 25-20 win.
Whether he was protecting the net, or trying to punish the Cougars, Le was keeping Clovis East in the game. In the third set, Le came to life. He helped lead a 6-0 charge to open the set, ultimately pushing the Timberwolves over the line.
At one point with the Timberwolves leading, Le scored on consecutive kills and came up with a big block on Clovis’ Johnson.
The momentum was changing hands, but the fourth set changed the complexity of the match.
The Cougars jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back. Clovis was having its way on the outside with its athletic ability, but the Timberwolves were giving away free points as they couldn’t keep the ball in bounds.
That five-point lead ballooned to 11-1 after more self-inflicting mistakes by the Timberwolves. With the game 2-1 in favor of the Cougars, the match began slipping away. Johnson, Hawkins and Lovepreet Sran were too long up front, forcing the Timberwolves into tough positions.
The Cougars took the final set and the section title, but for the second-place winners, there should only be celebration.
Although the Timberwolves didn’t get the result they wanted, Clovis East had come a long way since 2009.
“We haven’t been here since 2009. We overcame a lot of good teams and we got here,” Clovis East head coach Marcos Orro said. “Clovis are really tough and they made it hard to pass the ball and without that, it’s hard to win. They’re very athletic and it made it tough for us.”
Despite the loss, Orro has something to be excited about.
“We will be here next year. We have a lot of good players and I know we will be back here.”
The Cougars and Timberwolves now advance to the state playoffs.