The Central Section girls volleyball champions for 2019 will reside in Clovis.
As the No. 4-seed, the Clovis West Golden Eagles defeated Clovis and the No. 1-seeded, 39-4 Clovis North Broncos en route to a championship victory over the Liberty-Bakersfield Patriots in a 5-set thriller (25-12, 17-25, 16-25, 25-22, 15-10).
No part of this run for the Golden Eagles was easy, although it may have seemed that way after the first set.
Clovis West came out throwing haymakers, jumping out to a monstrous 16-4 lead. Everything was turning up roses for the Golden Eagles; serves were well-placed, returns were solid and the blocking and kills emphatic.
But after the first set, the match seemed to flip completely on its ear and the Patriots looked like a team refocused and reenergized.
The Patriots placed their serves well and with such pace that it caused the Golden Eagles to mis-hit the returns, causing them to have to scramble to get back into position to return any Patriots’ shots after getting the ball over the net.
That and a series of unforced errors and net violations proved to be the undoing of the Golden Eagles in the second and the third set.
But, the Golden Eagles didn’t let dropping two straight sets deter them as they team showed the mental toughness that head coach Rhonda DeRuiter said has typified her group the entire season and playoffs.
“I think that each time has its own identity, and with this group, the word that always comes to mind is resiliency, and they showed that once again tonight,” she said.
That never-say-die attitude served the team well in the last two sets, as neither team was able to pull away by more than just a handful of points. Each serve, each block, each kill was crucial.
The teams traded service errors and more net violations, barring either one from going on a run that would ostensibly have put the game and the match away for good.
Back and forth the teams went, point-for-point in the fourth set, but ultimately the Golden Eagles did just enough to keep its season and hopes for a championship alive heading into a decisive fifth set
Clovis utilized its team speed and ability to quickly adjust to varied styles of shots and ball movement from Liberty to lead 9-6, prompting a time out by the Patriots.
With just six points standing in between them and a championship, no number of timeouts would save the Patriots from their fates.
The Golden Eagles won six of the final 10 points to clinch a title and a berth in the state championships.