When a rivalry game happens in the playoffs — all bets are off.
That’s the mentality Bear River girls volleyball coach Matt MacDonald has as his No. 2 seed Lady Bruins prepare to host No. 10 seed Colfax in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.
“When it’s a rivalry, you can throw out the seeds, you can throw out everything,” he said. “We are anticipating a tough game.”
The Lady Bruins (26-12, 9-1 Pioneer Valley League) are the 2012 PVL co-champs and are on a five-game winning streak during which they haven’t dropped a set.
The Lady Falcons (10-14, 6-4 PVL) were third in the PVL and are flying high after upsetting Golden Sierra in a first-round straight-set sweep.
“The fact that Colfax went in and swept (Golden Sierra) the way that they did has us thinking,” said MacDonald.
Bear River has been dominant against Colfax this season, beating them handily both times in league play, but MacDonald isn’t sleeping on the Lady Falcons a third time around.
“It’s hard to beat a good team three times,” he said. “They are a scrappy defense first team.”
The last time the teams battled, Bear River swept Colfax, and senior captain Sara Schell led the Lady Bruins with 18 kills and two aces.
The key to getting past the Lady Falcons and on to the third round will be slowing the play of Colfax’s Maddi Ittner, said MacDonald.
“She’s one of the most dynamic players in the section,” he said. “Our No. 1 job is to find her. She will get 80 percent of their sets. The No. 1 key is to slow her down. You can’t stop her, but we need to slow her.”
The Lady Bruins are not short of weapons themselves with Schell, Kirsten Pereira, Teryn Rath and Amanda Clark providing senior setter Kaya Johnson with several scoring threats.
Schell leads the team with 416 kills this season, Pereira has 270, Rath has 148, and Clark has tallied 100 so far this season. Johnson leads the team with an average of 9.4 assists per set.
Bear River’s back line of Haley Brown, Aspen Dutrow and Cheyenne Gosalvez have also stepped up as the playoff push has kicked in, said MacDonald.
“They are all playing at an extremely high level,” he said. “They are playing at a level that makes it really hard to serve against us.”
MacDonald said that his team’s offense is one of the best in the section but believes it still has work to do defensively.
“We’ve been really emphasizing defense,” he said. “We feel if we want to make a long run in the playoffs, we need to be better on defense.”
The rivalry continues at 7 p.m. today at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
To contact Sports Writer, Walter Ford, call (530) 477-4232 or email him at email@example.com.