Bruins get Gators in semis |

Bruins get Gators in semis

Bear River's Kaya Johnson bends down to dig a ball during a playoff match against Cardinal Newman Tuesday night at Bear River.
John Hart | The Union

In a season full of tests, the Bear River girls volleyball team has passed them all.

When a share of the Pioneer Valley League title was on the line, the Lady Bruins beat rival Placer. When the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship was put in front of them, they took it, beating five-time section champ Ripon Christian in the process.

Today when the Lady Bruins (31-12) take on top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (31-5) in the Norcal semifinals, they will be facing their toughest test to date.

Sacred Heart Prep won the West Bay League championship, the Central Coast Section Championship and 10 of its last 11 matches.

“They are the No. 1 seed for a reason,” Bear River head coach Matt MacDonald said. “They are very balanced. They like to move the ball around.”

Sacred Heart Prep has several hitters it likes to use. Leading the Gators in kills is senior Ellie Shannon with 324 this season. Shannon is followed by seniors Payton Smith and Sonia Abuel-Saud, as well as sophomore Victoria Garrick, all of whom have more than 250 kills on the season.

Despite the impressive record and the top seed in the Division IV Norcal bracket, MacDonald said the Gators aren’t untouchable.

“They are definitely beatable,” he said. “There is no team left that is untouchable. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the four teams left made it to the Norcal finals.”

Macdonald said one goal for the Lady Bruins will be taking charge of the match early.

“The key for us is to dictate where they go with the ball,” he said. “If we can force them out of their system and if we can keep their middles out of it, the easier it will be for us.”

MacDonald said his team has watched tape of the Gators and that his team is focused on the moment.

They’re excited,” he said. “That win at home against Cardinal Newman got them believing that we can do this … They are so focused on what we can do to beat Sacred Heart.”

Bear River will continue its quest for the Norcal championship game at 7 p.m. today on Sacred Heart Prep’s home court in Atherton.

To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at

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