Even though its season was reduced to six matches from repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sobrato High girls volleyball team still has the same goals this season: to defend its 2019 league championship.
The Bulldogs are close to doing just that, improving to 4-0 after a four-game win over Andrew Hill on Thursday night. Game scores were 25-13, 19-25, 25-17, 25-17. Sobrato, which went 9-1 to win the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa South Division championship last season, has two more matches—one against crosstown rival Live Oak—to retain its title and cap a perfect season.
“The goal this year is to go undefeated as we only have six games,” Bulldogs coach Daniel Clifton said. “It’s our time to shine and show we are still the best team in this league. Being that we have eight seniors on the team, it really was their season to show they are still the league champs and nobody is taking that away from them right now.”
Sobrato won despite the absence of its two starting outside hitters, which proved problematic in Game 2. Andrew Hill displayed textbook defense, routinely digging up hard-hit balls and sending them back over, which often led to a Sobrato unforced error. With balls dropping to the ground, miscommunication and a drop in their level of play, the Bulldogs knew they had to turn things around in Game 3.
And that’s exactly what they did, taking control midway through the set to win it rather handily. Game 4 was more of the same, as Sobrato’s superior talent proved to be too much for the scrappy Falcons, who lack height and firepower but are one of the more fundamentally sound defensive teams in the league. Bulldogs junior Jasmine Mapalad had a match-high 13 kills and five service aces, while senior Lindsey Martin had nine kills, four blocks and two aces. The two were strong throughout the match, helping Sobrato avoid the upset.
“Jasmine is a very good transitioning hitter and knows where to go,” Clifton said. “She can get to either pin and have success. As far as form and aggressiveness goes, you never really see her being timid. And Lindsey is the fire of our team and a commanding force at the net. She likes to take control as far as letting our hitters know what is going on and communicating. She has a very good attitude and is a rock on the team.”
As is senior libero Annette Angeles, a four-year varsity player. Angeles was her usual self on Thursday, tumbling to the floor for diving digs and doing an excellent job with her passing. Time and again Angeles dug up a ball to keep a point alive, and her serve-receive was on point.
“Every time I watch her play, it’s amazing what she does,” Clifton said. “You think a ball is far gone because she’s all the way in the left corner and all of a sudden she comes from nowhere diving with one arm and makes a perfect pass. If there is one person you can never count out in a play, it’s Annette. She continues to amaze and every year you know she’s going to bring it to another level. Even when you think you’ve seen the best of her, she’s got another three different things she’s going to show you.”
Clifton said senior setter Hailey Keith—another four-year varsity player—has a “great eye” in that she’s able to recognize what the opposing team is doing and relaying that to her teammates so they can position accordingly.
“She has a really good ability to read blockers and gives our hitters that 1-on-1 opportunity to go out there and terminate on the pins,” Clifton said. “So just a lot of credit goes to her for making our offense click so well.”
Junior Haley Haar had nine kills and produced some timely ones whenever the Falcons made a run in Games 3 and 4. The Bulldogs received contributions from seemingly the entire team, as Saskia Vaillancourt had four kills, Maria Brozic finished with two blocks, Hailey Keith had three kills and Heidi Sailor had two aces. Clifton was proud of how the players responded after playing an underwhelming second set.
“They get in these slumps at times where they take the pressure off the other team,” he said. “It’s happened more than once this season, but every single time it’s happened, it lights a little bit of fire. Then they come back with a sense of urgency and not wanting to see the ball drop on defense.”