Folsom volleyball drops SFL opener to Rocklin, 3-0

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Something special is happening with Folsom High’s varsity girls’ volleyball team.

Folsom ended this week with a 12-2 record, the most wins the program has had since winning 13 matches in 2008 and 2009, the former when current head coach Michella Harvey was a senior setter for team.

A larger group of returning players, plus an influx of talented newcomers had led to the team’s best season in a decade. On Thursday night, Folsom hosted Rocklin in the first Sierra Foothill League match of the season, and though the team lost three straight games (25-19, 25-14, 25-23), the match was competitive, entertaining and the gymnasium was full of energy and excitement. At various times during the third game, a near-capacity crowd, including a vocal student section, which has been non-existent in past years, chanted “let’s go Bulldogs.” It’s likely that cheer hadn’t been heard at a Folsom volleyball match in over a decade.

“It’s the best atmosphere we’ve ever had,” Folsom senior setter Sabrina Bigley said. “The energy level in the gym was super high and it helped to keep us in the match. We didn’t get down on ourselves; kept the energy high and fought back. The mentality is completely different this year. We’re more positive and have more energy. We have better team chemistry.”

Added Harvey, “It felt like a playoff game. The atmosphere was fabulous, and it helped contribute to our energy level.”

Folsom fell behind 5-0 in the first game and trailed by about that much most of the way until tightening things up the second half of the match. Sydney Radell, a middle blocker who is solid all the way around the court, helped the team crawl back in the match with some tough serving late. A block by Bigley and Allison Hakes tied the match at 19 and brought the crowd to a frenzy. The Thunder, however, proved throughout the night they had too many weapons and pulled away late, scoring the final six points to win the game, 25-19.

The Bulldogs played well early in game two and found themselves tied with the Thunder at 13. However, Rocklin unbelievably scored 12 of the last 13 points to win the match easily, 25-14.

The third game was Folsom’s best, as the blocking game came to life and helped slow the Rocklin attack. The defense brought Folsom back in the game after falling behind 10-5. The Bulldogs eventually tied the game at 15 and took three different leads in the match, the final one coming at 18-17 after a crowd-pleasing kill from sophomore outside hitter Hannah Heller.

Rocklin promptly tied the game at 18 and led the rest of the way, though Folsom played hard to the bitter end before losing 25-23.

Folsom’s back row was under pressure all night, but libero Marissa Plaza, defensive specialists Emma Hofmann and Claire Racioppe, with help from Karmin Brown and Radell, did a respectable job. Offensively, Bigley worked the ball to Hakes, Radell and Brown much of the night with Heller and Lauren Thompson contributing in the third game, but it wasn’t enough.

“We knew going in that we hadn’t quite seen a team as good as Rocklin,” Harvey said. “We hadn’t seen a team that deep offensively. Our ball control has been great all season and we haven’t been making too many errors, but we made more tonight than we had been.

“Offensively, I felt like it took awhile to find our connections. There were too few of them for the first time this year.”

Harvey said the team showed some nerves in the first game, as it was the first league match against one of the stronger teams in the league. Harvey is looking forward to playing Rocklin again in three weeks.

Folsom, 12-2 on the season, plays at Whitney on Tuesday and hopes to get back on the winning track.