The Woodlake volleyball team could have laid down and quit after it found itself down 2-0 in the Central Section Division IV championship match at Bakersfield Christian.
But that wouldn’t have sat well with Woodlake coach Tori Johnson or her players.
The Tigers battled back to avoid a sweep, but in the end, top-seeded Bakersfield Christian proved to be just a little bit better than No. 2 Woodlake with a 25-22, 27-25, 20-25, 25-21 win to capture the Division IV title.
“I’m just so proud of them,” Johnson said. “Bakersfield fans were telling us how much class we played with. It wasn’t our finest performance but we did leave our mark as a class act.”
Woodlake, the defending Division IV champion, was close to winning the second set and that could have turned the entire match around. But Bakersfield Christian lived up to the seed it was given.
“It was a good match,” Woodlake senior Melissa Samaniego said. “We kept going harder and harder. The second game we went even harder and we went harder in the third set. We tried our best.”
Samaniego finished with 14 kills and five blocks, KiAnna Cunningham had 16 kills and six blocks, and Regina Ramirez chipped in with eight kills.
“We didn’t have the ball control,” Johnson said. “If we don’t have that, we can’t run our offense. It is sad not to see them be successful.”
For Bakersfield Christian, the Valley championship was the program’s first since 2008.
Gigi Wilkins led the way for the Eagles with 11 kills, Isabella Bouma and Stormy August each had nine kills,a nd Jayann De Hoog had 33 assists and 16 digs.
“It feels amazing because we’ve been working for this all year,” Bakersfield Christian sophomore middle blocker Sonia Visser told the Bakersfield Californian. “And all of the muscle that we’ve built this year has finally paid off, and all the hard work that we’ve done has led up to this moment and it feels so good to finally win it.”
The night didn’t go the way Woodlake would have liked, but it is a program that has enjoyed plenty of success over the past three seasons.
The Tigers are the three-time East Sequoia League champions and they won the Central Section Division IV championship last year.
“This run is putting Woodlake on the map,” Johnson said. “We have our senior leadership and that’s what the girls were commenting on. Look at what we have done. We have accomplished a lot.”
Samaniego has been there from the very beginning of the Woodlake turnaround. She remembers being on the eighth grade team that won the school’s first title.
“It has been amazing,” she said. “Ever since our eighth grade year, we have bonded and we are very close. I’m proud of my team for being amazing.”
The run isn’t over for Woodlake.
The Tigers will likely advance to the Southern California Regional playoffs next week.
“We said, ‘Don’t let this night define you,'” Johnson said. “Woodlake Tiger volleyball had a great season. We still have some more volleyball left in us so we celebrated that.”