The American River College women’s volleyball team defeated Fresno City College 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 24-26, 25-16, 15-10) in the third and final round of the California Community College Athletic Association’s (CCCAA) Northern California regional playoff. With the victory, the team advanced to CCCAA’s state championship.
After taking the highly competitive opening set, in which neither team lead by more than two points, ARC took a commanding six-point lead in the second.
Fresno responded with an 11-4 run, taking the lead and prompting ARC head coach Ashlie Hain to take a timeout that would do little to help the team’s cause.
Fresno would even the match, and carry its momentum into the ensuing set leading by as many as eight before ARC, rallied by its home crowd, scored eight unanswered points, tying the game at 23.
Fresno scored again, taking a one-point lead and looking to go up 2-1. On what looked to be the final play of the set, Fresno players threw their hands up in elation, allowing ARC a kick-over that tied the game at 24.
Though Fresno would eventually win the set, sophomore middle hitter Nicole Hareland saw a bit of symbolism in prolonging what the opposition thought was already a victory.
“It is (a metaphor) for the whole (match) – even though we lost that (set) the momentum of us fighting for every point really helped in the next,” Hareland said. “It (got) us pumped up and (we said,) ‘We have a chance. We’re not giving up. This is our game.’”
The poignant metaphor was inspiration enough for the Beavers, who met little resistance in sets four and five.
Emotions ran high after the final point was scored. The team rushed the court, huddled, and staged a celebratory photo-op after clinching the victory.
“I cried. I’m so, so happy right now,” sophomore libero Sophi Lozano said amidst the festivities. “It’s like a dream because last year we kept saying, ‘We want to go to state.’ This year we wanted it more. We had the experience (of losing) last year”
Freshman outside hitter Erika Jones, who did not share the experience of falling short last season, stated she was “immensely proud” of her team’s determination and is already looking toward possible challenges of the state championship.
“We need to be mentally prepared now,” Jones said. “Our team’s never been to state (championships) and these teams have been to state for years now. And all those teams play in the sand 24/7. We don’t have that here in Nor Cal.”
ARC will now shift its focus and prepare for the state championship competition, scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. The Beavers will be playing for the first state championship in the program’s history.