Before the volleyball match between Forest Lake Christian and Woodland Christian, Lady Falcon head coach Travis Smith said the two teams were evenly matched, and it would come down to who wanted it more.
It turns out the Lady Falcons wanted it more.
In a thrilling back-and-forth affair between the Central Valley California League’s two best teams, Forest Lake Christian outlasted Woodland Christian in five sets, 22-25, 25-12, 14-25, 25-14, 16-14.
The victory sparked a wild celebration from the FLC home crowd and the Lady Falcons (11-3, 4-0 CVCL) who hugged and jumped in the middle of the court.
“This is huge,” Smith said. “ We haven’t beat Woodland since 2007. They have just owned the league, and we haven’t really come close to them, so this is a huge win. It was a must, too, because now the pressure is on them when we go out to their place.”
After the two teams split the first four sets, the match moved to a fifth and final frame for the early edge in CVCL play.
The Lady Falcons got out to an early advantage behind strong serving from Emily Pearce who quickly gave FLC a 2-0 lead. Pearce finished the night with six aces, three of which came in the final set.
The Lady Falcons and Lady Cardinals traded points from there with neither team ever gaining more than a two-point advantage. FLC scored on Morgan Koch blocks and Aly English and Emily Woodward kills.
With the score knotted at nine, Pearce landed her third ace of the set to give the Lady Falcons a slight edge.
A Woodland Christian error on a kill put FLC up 11-9, and an English kill set up nicely by Pearce gave the Lady Falcons a 12-9 advantage.
Woodland Christian called timeout to interrupt the flow of the game briefly.
The Lady Cardinals took advantage of the break in momentum to storm back with a 5-2 run, putting the set at 14 each.
The Lady Falcon service game again proved to be the difference in the set. Woodland Christian was unable to find its offensive groove, put off balance after FLC serves. From there, the Lady Falcons continued to pound away until the Lady Cardinals were unable to return volley. The Lady Falcons scored the next two points and proceeded to celebrate at center court.
“This was incredibly important for us,” Koch said. “We were able to play as a team and really unify and not get down. We keep fighting to the end.”
Koch led FLC in kills with a season-high 16, English added seven kills and 13 assists, and Pearce had five kills and 19 assists in the game.
FLC’s Hannah Zea added six kills in the win, and Sarah Ponce, the smallest player on FLC’s squad, came up big with several aces at critical junctures.
The Lady Falcon victory marks the first time that Woodland Christian (9-9, 4-1 CVCL) has lost in CVCL play since 2010 going 24-0 during that stretch.
The Lady Falcons will try to keep their league record unblemished Thursday when they travel to Cristo Rey in Sacramento.
To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford, call (530) 477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.