In a girls volleyball match between the top two teams in the Pioneer Valley League, it was Bear River topping Placer in an epic battle between the two bitter rivals, 25-17, 27-29, 32-30, 25-20.
“It’s a great start,” Bear River head coach Matt MacDonald said. “It’s not by any means the end of it. We will see them again. We have a very good Colfax team coming up but fantastic start though.”
With the win, the Lady Bruins are now 11-11 overall and 4-0 in the PVL. Placer drops to 3-1 in the PVL.
“Even though we have a small team, I am really confident we will do really well,” Bear River senior Taryn Rath said. “Our team put forth its best effort, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Rath was instrumental in the win with 13 digs and 15 kills. Many of Rath’s kills came late in both the tightly contested second and third sets.
“We just made sure to focus on what we were doing and how we can come back,” Rath said. “They made a lot of good runs, but we stayed focused on the moment and coming back and sticking together as a family.”
After Bear River cruised to a 25-17 first-set victory, things started to heat up both on the court and in the stands.
As the girls from Placer and Bear River fought it out on the court, the Bruin and Hillgal fan bases battled it out in the stands.
As points were traded on the floor, verbal jabs in the form of chants were traded in the stands. Eventually, both student sections would be asked to restrain their fervor for their teams during serves.
Trailing one set to none, Placer jumped on Bear River, grabbing an 11-5 early edge.
Placer’s Raquel Quirarte put the pressure on with big kill after big kill. Placer’s other big threat, 6-foot, 1-inch Maddie Graham also posed problems for Bear River all night.
“They have a ton of fire power on that side of the net,” MacDonald said of Placer. “I felt like we were on our toes all night, but we did an outstanding job.”
Placer would blow its lead, and Bear River grabbed a 21-18 lead, but the Hillgals were not going away, scoring seven of the next 11 points to tie it at 25. Placer would get a pair of kills from Quirarte to bookend a block, followed by a winning rally to take the set 29-27.
In the third set, the second of two amazing sets played in this contest, neither team could get ahead by much, both teams battling closely and again ending up tied at 25. The two teams exchanged points until the game was tied at 30 on a Kaely Rath kill. Bear River’s Brooke Hajewski took the service and sent over two balls that were too difficult for Placer to handle, and Bear River took the third set 32-30.
In the third set, Quirarte and Graham were especially aggressive, but Bear River’s back row was up to the challenge, fielding the rocket shots from Placer when they were in and letting the others sail out of bounds.
“I’ve been talking (Hannah Christianson) up all year because I can see the success that she’s able to have and how she plays at such a high level, and tonight she brought it,” MacDonald said. “She is a leader back there. We haven’t had a dynamic back row player like that since I’ve been here. She was just phenomenal.”
Christianson finished with 12 digs. Bear River senior captain Kirtsen Pereira was on point all night with a team-high 22 kills, many of which were precision touches that avoided the Placer block. Others were hard shots that ricocheted off Hillgal players. Kaely Rath finished with five kills. Savannah Wirth led the team in assists with 38.
After the harrowing third set, Bear River rolled out to an 18-10 lead in the fourth and final set and cruised to a 25-20 victory.
“There was a lot of pressure on our girls to repeat the success we have had the last couple years,” MacDonald said. “But we try to stay in the moment, as cliché as it is, one point at a time, stay in the moment and stay totally in control.”
Bear River is back at it Thursday when it travels to face Colfax.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.