Thunder defeat Grizzlies to claim SFL volleyball championship

By: John Parker Press Tribune Correspondent
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Volleyball is a fickle sport rife with shifts in momentum that can change in the blink of an eye. Which is what makes the feat Rocklin’s girls team accomplished on Thursday night all the more impressive. The Thunder kept the pressure on an error-prone Granite Bay squad, sweeping the Grizzlies 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-20) to claim its fourth-straight Sierra Foothill League championship on the night they honored six seniors who have played large roles in those titles. “We forced some (errors) with tough serving,” Rocklin coach Dave Muscarella said. “And then we’d get a big dig on some of their bigger swings, get in a good ball situation and then blast away. That can take the wind out of your sails.” Granite Bay (21-7, 7-2 SFL), a sophomore-heavy unit whose best days appear to be ahead, showed some brilliant flashes in mounting several long scoring runs, but they all came after the Grizzlies had dug holes for themselves early in sets. Granite Bay led for just two points all night, as it was led by sophomore outside hitter Nicollette Pinkney’s five kills and three blocks. But the night belonged to the Thunder (29-6, 8-1) and, more specifically, its seniors. Rocklin honored the contributions of Erin Davis, Kelsey Garvella, Katelyn Ivy, Alli Painter, Cailynn Prewitt and Sierra Ueltzen in a touching pre-match ceremony that included recollections from younger players who have been inspired by their senior class. Prewitt, a three-year starter and the lone player to play on all four SFL title teams, led all players with 16 kills while Davis contributed five kills and a block in the clinching match. Perhaps fittingly, Davis and Ivy notched match point on a combo block. “We’ve had some ups and downs,” Prewitt said, “but we’ve grown so close to each other.” Both teams have one more league match on Tuesday before heading into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs as high seeds in their respective brackets. Granite Bay will head into a tough Division I field headlined by St. Francis and Oak Ridge — which the Grizzlies own a nonleague win over — while Rocklin will be a heavy favorite to return to the Division II title match for the third straight year and is the defending champion. “Our first goal was to win league again,” Davis said. “The second was to go to section and win again. We’ll be getting some home matches so hopefully we can keep it going and do what we do.”