Crowning Redwood as outright West Yosemite League champions became mere formality as soon as Rebekah Cervantes polished off the contentious second game.
A pair of kills by Mt. Whitney’s Issabella Luna tied the game for the eighth and ninth times after five lead changes, knotting it at 24-24 and threatening to provide some rain for Redwood’s Senior Night parade to the title.
But Cervantes, one of the celebrated senior captains, came through with a finishing kill and ace. The 26-24 win put the Rangers up 2-0 in the match and took all the fight out of the Pioneers. A lopsided victory in Game 3 to seal the 25-22, 26-24, 25-12 sweep and outright championship was all too predictable.
Redwood (27-2, 11-1) had already clinched a share of its first league title since 2005 last week with a thrilling five-set victory over El Diamante followed by a sweep of Golden West the following night. Claiming sole possession of it simply made the moment even sweeter.
“We’re really excited. It’s been a long time coming,” Redwood coach Alana Montgomery said. “This is a highlight. The fact that Redwood hasn’t done it in a long time makes it special.”
Redwood ends El Diamante’s reign at the top after the Miners won four of the past five league titles, but the two-time defending champs still finish in second place to extend their streak to seven consecutive top two finishes — nine straight in the top three.
Now the question is just how high will the Rangers be seeded in the Central Section Division II playoffs? MaxPreps.com ranks Redwood as the division’s top team, but the committee may reward Central Valley Christian and its impressive schedule in spite of its blemished nine-loss record.
Mt. Whitney (19-8, 8-4), meanwhile, takes third after finishing 5-7 in WYL play the past three years to cap a stretch of eight consecutive losing league seasons. The Pioneers appear positioned for a top six seed in the D-II playoffs.
“We have had a successful season,” Mt. Whitney coach Tori Johnson said. “We got third place and that’s the best Whitney has done in a while. I think we are trying to put things in perspective and know that we still had a great season.”
Redwood took command of the opening game with a 7-0 run started by a kill from Cervantes and powered by two more from Jazmine Gilcrest to go up 13-9. The duo combined for 11 kills in the frame. Mt. Whitney kept it close, but never did regain the lead before losing 25-22.
Chandler McKean made four consecutive kills during a 5-0 Redwood run capped by an ace from Brooke Gilcrest that put the Rangers ahead 8-6. The two teams later traded back-to-back 5-0 runs that left Redwood up 17-15. The Pioneers matched the Rangers point-for-point down the stretch, re-tying the game with their final five possessions until Cervantes ended the game — and essentially the match — with the final two points.
Game 3 began and ended on 6-0 Redwood runs as the Rangers ran away with the league title.
“They just played well tonight. They have been winning but not playing especially sharp. I thought tonight they were really on their game offensively and defensively,” Montgomery said of her team. “This team has worked really hard… They put in their time. They put in their hard work. Other teams have as well, but they have really worked hard for this.”
Cervantes led Redwood with 13 kills and 20 digs to go with a pair of aces. McKean and Jazmine Gilcrest, the other two senior captions, rounded out Senior Night with 11 and eight kills respectively; McKean also added three blocks. Paige Tadeo made 21 assists.
Luna led Mt. Whitney with 10 kills and three aces. Marinn Browne made three blocks.
Valley playoffs begin Monday.