Oakdale High’s varsity volleyball team was only weak to kryptonite during Valley Oak League play, and it sported a fitting green hue.
The Sonora Wildcats beat Oakdale in a five-game thriller on Oct. 6, and repeated the feat with a huge comeback to win in Oakdale on Nov. 1.
Oakdale mounted leads of five or more points on 48 different occasions, a feat which Sonora never once managed during 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 13-15 games in Sonora’s favor in the regular season finale.
The Wildcats (14-0) came back from a 19-12 deficit in game No. 2, broke away from a 20-20 deadlock in game four and landed an 8-4 rally to close the tiebreaker. Oakdale (12-2) would have forced a co-Valley Oak League championship with wins in either of the final two games.
“Really we were the better team,” Oakdale coach Shelli Ponce said. “We have better all around players, but we just could not execute. We were able to get ahead of them and they capitalized on our lack of defense and unfortunately were able to come back.”
Sonora coach Kim Evans seemed to agree with the sentiment.
“Oakdale is a fantastic team. They have great defense with amazing hitters and our focus was just to keep the balls in play,” Evans said. “Somehow we continued to do that, and it was amazing to be involved in a comeback like that, especially against Oakdale because they are so good.”
Oakdale had trouble corralling big hits from outside hitter Gracia Gagnon and lanky blocker Mariah Armstrong. Mustang senior middle blocker Domi Powell landed a team season-best 16 kills, but it wasn’t enough to give Oakdale the edge for good.
“It was a really great atmosphere with the band and the crowd all excited on senior night, I just wish we had won,” Powell said. “Our team is amazing and I really feel like we have the potential to go far.”
Powell had the treat of playing in front of her twin sisters Jaci and Juli Powell, who graduated Oakdale in 2010. The standout athletes compete in track and field for Golden West Community College and had not seen Domi play since they were all on the same prep volleyball team in 2009. Jaci, who set a Golden West record in the triple jump and was the California Community College Association State Champion in the seven-event heptathlon, was impressed with her old team.
“They did awesome,” Jaci said. “I had not seen my sister play in so long as she is doing so well. I’m so proud of all the girls, they have improved so much.”
Justina Keith landed 19 digs with five aces and 14 kills in the loss. McKenzie Willett added five blocks while Kellie Gratigny made 46 assists.
Oakdale began the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section postseason on Tuesday with visiting Vanden, but results were not available at press time. With the No. 4 seed in the bracket, a win over Vanden would mean Oakdale can also host the winner of No. 5 Gregori and No. 12 Livingston in the postseason’s quarterfinal round on Nov. 10. If Oakdale advances to meet No. 1 Christian Brothers on Nov. 15, the team will have to travel.
“Overall Sonora was just a league game, and in my point of view we have a lot to accomplish at home in the playoffs,” coach Ponce said. “We are focused and we have a determination to do well in the playoffs.”
Oakdale’s JV girls finished a 12-2 VOL season after two losses to Sonora, and suffered the last in 15-25, 16-25 scores.
“I thought we were 100 percent better in this match than we were in the first with Sonora,” Oakdale coach Cassie Clark said. “They weren’t afraid to challenge Sonora and they played really tough.”
Oakdale was led by Leah Burchell (eight digs, four kills), Brittany Carpenter (three blocks) and Hannah Butler (six aces, 10 assists).
The Mustangs thrilled with a 2-1 win to force co-VOL championship honors with Sonora on Tuesday after 25-18, 20-25, 15-13 scores.
“They just brought it tonight,” Oakdale coach Susan Butler said. “They came from behind but we played really strong in the third game and were able to win it.”
Nicole DesRochers had five kills for Oakdale while Markie Taylor (12 digs) and Jen Guzman (three aces, two blocks) also came through with big efforts.