Momentum swung violently in all directions as El Diamante made its bid to repeat as Valley champions.
One moment the Miners looked comfortably headed for another title. A moment later and it was all spiraling out of control.
Down 2-sets-to-1, the top seeded Miners dug deep and rallied for a thrilling 5-set (26-24, 24-26, 14-25, 26-24, 15-12) victory over No. 2 Tehachapi in the Central Section Division II girls volleyball championship Thursday at El Diamante.
“Yes it’s so amazing to do it twice,” said El Diamante middle blocker Lauren Torres when asked if winning a second Valley title was everything she hoped it would be. “The feeling is just incredible. I love it so much.
“It was very mentally exhausting. I don’t know how many times I screamed my head off. I was just cheering for my girls. Don’t give up. Keep going. Keep pushing. Do not let go. Hold onto it. Keep fighting.
El Diamante coach Leslie Sorensen couldn’t agree more.
“It’s overwhelming right now,” Sorensen said. “To be down in a hole, I’m proud of my girls for not hanging their heads. They just kept hanging in there. It was a great match. Everyone got their money’s worth, that’s for sure.”
A tightly contested opening game set the stage for the epic five setter. The set featured 12 ties and the two sides traded 10 consecutive points to an even 24-24 score.
The night’s key matchup also took center stage early on. Torres, who recently signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Fresno State, went head-to-head with Tehachapi’s Destiny Julye, who is verbally committed to UCLA.
Julye consistently unloaded crushing kills while Torres physically imposed her will blocking at the net. Set 1 ended with Torres emphatically blocking Julye for a 26-24 win. She finished the night with nine kills and six blocks.
“My main goal was I knew [Julye] was their go-to girl so I have to shut her down,” Torres said. “She was the main girl I was focusing on. It’s a lot of pressure. I think I’ve taught myself over the years how to handle pressure.”
An early 8-0 run put El Diamante up 11-3 in Set 2. After that tense first set, the Miners finally looked to be in control and cruising toward another title.
But Tehachapi chipped away at the lead before winning 11 of the last 13 points to stun the hosts with a 26-24 win of their own. Credit the Warriors for hanging tough, but El Diamante self destructed down the stretch with a litany of unforced errors.
Losing control of Set 2 left a hangover for Set 3 as Tehachapi jumped out to a 14-3 lead. Suddenly El Diamante’s grip on a repeat title was firmly in the hands of the visiting Warriors.
The Miners staged a rally of their own, cutting the lead to 16-11 with an 8-2 run. But Tehachapi responded and closed out the set for a 25-14 win and 2-1 set lead.
“We need to pick it up right now,” said Torres of the team’s mindset after the third set. “This is our last chance. We need to do it right now. We just kept fighting. We stayed strong. I’ve never played with girls who play with that much heart ever. It was just amazing to see all of them not give up – just that fierceness in their eyes.”
Torres backed her words with a block and two kills to power a 7-1 run opening the fourth set. Again, however, the hosts’ comfort was fleeting.
Tehachapi rallied to take a 19-16 lead and then stood on the brink of a Valley championship up 21-18.
But Torres would not let El Diamante’s dream die. She surged for back-to-back blocks of Julye before altering another potential kill shot out of bounds as the Miners retook the lead at 23-21.
Julye kept firing and landed a pair of kills to even the score at 23-23. A third kill from the UCLA recruit retied it at 24. But Rachael Schaefer fired back with a kill of her own and Summer Warford landed the winning block for a crucial 26-24 victory.
Schaefer and Katelyn Anderson led the team with 16 kills each.
“Offensively we’re a very good team,” Sorensen said. “We needed to turn some defense into offense. In the fourth game we got some defensive digs and we got some blocks that turned things around.”
Two kills by Anderson sparked a 7-2 El Diamante run to open the fifth and final set.
Two kills by Julye nearly tied it as Tehachapi pulled within one at 7-6.
Kills by Schaefer and Anderson put the Miners back out by six at 13-7.
Two blocks, an ace and a kill mustered up one final rally for the Warriors, who overcame a 2-set deficit against Independence in the semifinals just to reach this title bout.
Tehachapi had again pulled within one at 13-12.
Back and forth they went like two prize fighters trading blows.
Finally, El Diamante landed a knockout punch.
Anderson fired a kill and Torres made one final block to secure the Valley championship.
Charged by a pair of rowdy and boisterous crowds, emotion poured uncontrollably onto the court as the Miners celebrated another title.
“So much relief,” Torres said. “Yes, we didn’t it. I knew we could. That feeling, to get it twice is just incredible. It’s amazing.
“It’s just our heart. We don’t give up We always have faith and believe in each other. We pick each other. I believe that’s how we came through.”
El Diamante can now turn its attention to the Southern California Regional Division II tournament. The Miners will likely host a first round game Tuesday after losing at home last year to Los Osos. Brackets will be released Sunday on cifstate.org.