Top two teams face off in grudge match

The Brahmas’ road to redemption was not easy as the grudge match between Pierce College and Santa Barbara City College, Pierce’s only loss this season, went into four sets with the overall score of 3-1(25-20, 27-25, 25-23, 26-24).

Never before has the number one team faced-off against number two in the Western State Conference(WSC).

“This is a first, definitely for our conference to have the number one and number two in the state play,” said Ed Gover head coach for the Vaqueros, “It’s a great environment, we knew it was gonna be a big contest. It’s hard to come into Pierce after we beat them at our place and not expect anything but a big dog fight, and we got a good fight,” Gover said.

The Brahmas raced to establish dominance in the first set. They wasted little time setting up a 10-6 lead. Sophomore Julia Erickson was escorted off the court after what appeared to be a painful wrist injury.

After multiple long and difficult rallies, Pierce set the tone for the rest of the game by taking the first set.

“When we played them, I expected to go to five [sets]. You got to expect that. It’s a good team. We know each other so well, this is our third meeting this season. It’s just a matter of who’s going to make the good plays and have less errors,” said Nabil Mardini, head coach for Pierce.

The second set consisted of a very tight back-and-forth between the teams, with the Brahmas maintaining a slight lead. The Vaqueros managed to catch up tying the set 20-20 turning up the intensity to seize the second set.

“I think we did good, I’m just so happy with my team. It’s a beautiful thing where one of us could be off but there are other two on it and we can sub-out and get a win,”  said Zaire Dartis, outside hitter,“It feels good, we got payback,” Dartis said.

SBCC fought to stay alive in the third set, basic mechanics and a strong wall of defense lead to a score of 16-10 for the Vaqueros. Ultimately the score tied up at 23-23, with the roar of the crowd behind both teams they fought to decide whether Pierce would win with a clean sweep or Santa Barbara would earn another shot at victory.

The Vaqueros managed to take the third set, continuing with that momentum into the fourth set the Brahmas were shaken, but quickly regrouped with a 3-3 tie.

“They’re going make good plays, we’re going to make good plays. You can’t just hang your head down, you have to keep playing, and that’s what the girls did,” Mardini said.  

Rachael Lods, a team setter, shared her thoughts on not winning the game in three sets.

“In the first game, they kind of blocked our lights out. We really put an emphasis on running the offense fast and mixing up the sets,” Lods said, “It just makes me eager to go back to practice and perfect our offense and what we run, because I know we made a couple of errors here and there, and that kept them in the game.”

With clever fake-out tactics Pierce managed to tie up the game at 21-21. An incredibly powerful spike courtesy of Dartis pushed the game to the limit with the scoreboard at 24-24 in the fourth set.

“It feels really good. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. I thought we were going to take it in three, but they got some runs and it is what it is,” Shari Volpis, an outside hitter said.

A failed attempt to make it over the net resulted in the Brahmas getting the win and redeeming its only loss this season.

“We went through a slump for a couple of games and the energy wasn’t as high, we were making a lot of errors so with this game we’ll go back to that high-level,” Lods said.

The spirit the two teams displayed revealed a level of respect for the game that is expected of the top two teams in the the Western State Conference.  

“We just had to put up with what they do well, they do a lot of things well but one of them is that they love to run the sly plays… I think it’s wonderful that, no matter which team one, we got to play that caliber of a match before the play offs,” Gover said.