The three-peat looks like a formality for the Sobrato High girls volleyball team. The Bulldogs
took another step closer to that reality after sweeping crosstown rival Live Oak High on Oct. 7 in a Blossom Valley League Santa Teresa South Division contest. Game scores were 25-13, 25-17, 25-17.
Sobrato improved to 5-0 in division play and every other team has at least two losses, meaning barring a rash of injuries to their starters or another set of unforeseen events, the Bulldogs will be crowned league champions for a third straight season. Coach Daniel Clifton has been proud of the players for continually improving even after a stretch a couple of weeks ago in which it played several A-league teams in a tournament, resulting in a four match losing streak.
“That was a little rough, but it’s good for them to play those higher ranked teams,” Clifton said. “You kind of get a wakeup call of what is out there and I think it gave them a little bit of fire to come back and play as strong as possible the rest of the season.”
Speaking of playing strong, that’s what senior Jasmine Mapalad has been doing all season. Clifton said Mapalad is the kill leader at the opposite position among Division III schools in the Central Coast Section and top 24 in the state.
“She’s been a huge asset for us and can get a kill pretty much anywhere she gets the ball,” Clifton said. “She’s got a topspin serve and brings it on serve, offense and defense.”
Clifton has coached Mapalad and fellow senior standouts Haley Haar and Teresa Brozic since they were freshmen, so the trio holds a special place in his heart.
“It’s the first group I got to coach for the girls team,” he said. “It’s nice to see how much they’ve grown from freshman on junior varsity to now seniors and absolutely dominating at the varsity level.”
Sophomore outside hitter Kaylee Clayton remains the team’s most potent weapon in terms of being able to terminate the ball against a big block, while Hannah Pieters did a nice job of setting the ball against Live Oak, which fell to 1-4 in division action. The Acorns are having an atypical season since they graduated their entire starting lineup from last season.
Setter Maya Rafat, Caterina Picello, Addi Davenport-Smith and Ana Saluala were largely responsible for the team’s biggest surge in the match in Game 3. After falling behind 10-3, the Acorns rallied to within two points at 18-16. But that’s as close as the Acorns would get. The Bulldogs went on a game-ending 7-1 run to close things out.
“It’s a building year and I’m just trying to work with them to get them gelling together and speeding up their game a little bit,” Acorns coach Kathleen Davis said to the Times via text message. “Lots of potential. We have quite a few underclassmen that bring with them some great skills and desire to win.”
Clifton praised his players for staying motivated even though it was clear from the outset Sobrato was the superior team.
“Any time we play Live Oak, it gives a little motivation to keep playing at a higher level,” he said. “I’m super proud of how they played. But our biggest thing is not really on offense or our skill level. It comes down to communication and so far we’ve been able to get lucky at times and win by skill. But again, we give away a lot of points through easy communication errors. Tonight was a lot better, but improving our on-court communication is the single thing we grind through every single day.”
Clifton said he has four middles capable of making an impact, including Kayla Talbot, who scored some points on solid swings. Clifton has been mindful to not overwork Talbot to make sure she’s at optimum health once the CCS playoffs begin.
“Tonight she showed up and showed what she’s got,” Clifton said.
Sobrato has a deep roster including Brianna Bouton, Jodi Fields and Evann Durling, among others.