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Eagles can't seal the deal; Oakmont wins Div. III volleyball title

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Vista del Lago’s varsity girls’ volleyball team came within two points of a three-game sweep of Oakmont and a third-straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship on Thursday, but instead bowed to the top-seeded Vikings in five games.

The Eagles looked impressive in the opening match, winning big 25-16, but that was the best it got for the two-time defending champs, as Oakmont, slowly but surely, rose to the challenge before them and got the job done.

Vista won game two 25-20 to take a commanding lead, thanks to strong hitting from Kelsey Sampson and solid defensive play. The Vikings also helped the Eagles with several poorly hit balls and service errors, but refused to quit when they easily could have.

The difference in the match came down to the third game when Vista couldn’t put away a scrappy Oakmont team. The Eagles led 10-6 in the third and looked to be on their way to a three-game sweep, but Oakmont tied the match and 10 and again at 11 and then took its first lead of the night 12-11.

The Vikings worked up a 20-15 lead before the Eagles rallied to tie the score at 23. The teams played to tie scores at 24 and 25 before Oakmont finally scored two points in a row to take the game, 27-25; the final point fittingly coming on block.

Early in the match, Vista’s top hitter Kelsey Sampson was putting the ball down with ease, but once Oakmont, the taller of the two teams, found its block, it was lights out for the Eagles.

With the come-from-behind win in the third game, the Vikings proved to themselves they could win and it got a lot easier from that point on. Vista fell behind 4-0 in the fourth game and though they trailed at one point 9-8, they faltered down the stretch and lost 25-18. The fifth game was worse. With momentum clearly on Oakmont’s side, Vista never challenged and lost 15-4.

“I thought we played OK early, but we let them get a lead in the third game and though we fought back, we couldn’t get that one swing we needed and lost the game despite having multiple opportunities to win it,” Vista coach Patrick Sanders said. “That game provided a shift in momentum. Volleyball is a momentum game and once Oakmont got it, we couldn’t get it back. I give credit to Oakmont. They’re a tall and athletic team and did a fantastic job.”

Vista senior Caroline Sipiora said the third game was the critical game of the match.

“We came out and played not to lose instead of playing to win and we cracked under the pressure,” Sipiora said. “We tried to fight back, but we didn’t have the right attitude. Our attitude the first two games compared to the last two was like night and day. We needed to be more on an even keel.”

Despite the disappointing loss, the season is not over for the Eagles. Vista will play a Nor-Cal playoff game Tuesday, likely on the road, and still has a chance to make a run at a Nor-Cal title and possibly a state title.

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had, but it’s not over yet,” Sanders said. “I think we’re capable of winning some games in the Nor-Cal playoffs. We can’t hang our heads after this match.”