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Volleyball Takes Opening Round Loss In Playoffs
Attacking the net for Oakdale were Caroline Hamilton (14) and Emma Harper (10) in the team’s playoff road loss. DENNIS D. CRUZ/THE LEADER
Coach Heather Gonzales encourages her team and offers some instruction during a timeout. DENNIS D. CRUZ/THE LEADER

Oakdale High School’s volleyball girls made a brief appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. The Lady Mustangs entered the tournament as the 11th seed and met with El Capitan on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in the opening round.

Oakdale traveled to Merced to take on the sixth seeded Gauchos from the Central California Conference, where the host team won in three straight sets to end Oakdale’s postseason. Oakdale played catch up early in the first set as they were down 7-5 but managed to tie it at eight moments later. The seesaw battle continued as Oakdale took a 13-12 advantage forcing a Gauchos timeout. The Lady Mustangs built up an 18-13 lead but El Capitan went on a 6-1 run to tie it at 19. The Gauchos’ momentum continued as they built up a 22-21 lead before Oakdale called timeout. El Capitan went on to win the first set 25-21.

“We had an opportunity in the first set, I really felt like we could have won that,” said Oakdale head coach Heather Gonzales. “The opportunity slipped through our fingers and El Capitan just did not make any mistakes towards the end.”

The second set did not go well for Oakdale as they never led in the set and lost 25-14. Oakdale trailed by as many as 16 in the set but made it close when it was 21-14.

“That was clearly not our best set that we have played as a team, but I will say that the girls never gave up and continued to encourage one another during the second set,” Gonzales noted.

With their season on the line, Oakdale opened the third set with a 3-0 run, with El Capitan taking a timeout. Up 7-6, Oakdale found themselves at a 13-9 disadvantage minutes later. Following a timeout, Oakdale regrouped and closed the gap to 13-12. The two teams continued to battle with the score at 18-16 with the Gauchos on top. El Capitan closed the contest on a 7-2 run to advance in the playoffs.

“It’s difficult right now. This team has been so much fun to work with. Every day they came in and worked. They did not quit, regardless of the situation that they were faced with,” Gonzales said. “The seniors, they will be very missed. They are great girls, not just on the court but in our community as well.”

On the season Kailie Whorton led the team in three categories – serving aces (10), digs (55), and receptions (43). Grace Verdegaal led the team in total blocks (16), Alyssa Cogburn had a team high 73 assists on the season and Emma Harper had 33 kills.