By Wil Keepers,

Redding Christian will be the 4th seed in the Norcal State Tournament and host #5 seed Calistoga on Wednesday

Volleyball team poses together after their semi-final victory.  Photo from school facebook page.

It got in their heads just a little bit.  Last time Redding Christian played for a section title, the seniors on this team were freshmen on the JV team.  Last time they won a section title, most of these girls were not yet in Kindergarten (2005*)  They had beaten their personal tournament nemesis Portola in the semi-final, and they came into this match not quite ready for the bigger stage.  Redding Christian lost 3 sets to 0 to the Paradise Adventist Cougars in Saturday’s Section championship at Red Bluff High School.

Early in the first match, the Lions looked solid.  Emma Montague had a nice kill and 2 aces serving and Liv Sladek had a couple of blocks as the Lions led 7-4 early.  But Paradise Adventist didn’t panic.  The Cougars looked to set up their 6’ 2” hitter Sara Goymer and usually, that was all it took and opposition would wilt.  In this game, as the Lions blockers were waiting for her early, they started using her sometimes as a decoy and setting up fellow senior Quincy Carter.  After an early 7-4 deficit, the Cougars settled in and showed good discipline to space the floor and stop the Lions after just 1 or 2 good points.  The match was fairly even through the middle points, every time the Cougars looked poised to go on a run, the Lions would get a kill from Emma or a block from Sammie Wunner or Liv Sladek, every time the Lions looked poised to go on an extended run, there would be a solid dig or nice hit by Goymer or Carter.  As the back and forth went on, the Lions got tight, they stopped communicating, and from a 17-17 tie, the Cougars outscored the Lions 8-1 to end the set with a 25-17 victory.

In the second set, the Lions lost composure.  For the first time all season, they were not talking, they were tripping over each other, ultimately, the Lions were doing what they usually caused other teams to do.  After the Lions took a 3-2 lead on a nice Liv Sladek block, it all went off the rails, as the Cougars outscored the Lions 20-6 to take a commanding 22-9 lead.  In the timeout, coach Tammie Hartland implored the team to play their positions and to communicate, and they finished the set 3-3 to lose 25-12.  It seemed that at this point, they were overthinking, they were hesitating on shots, looking at each other when a ball hit the floor, fans of Redding Christian volleyball had not seen the team play this way all season.

In the third set, the Lions finally started to look like themselves.  They realized that this was it, and if they were to make a move, it had to be now.  Now when the Cougars put together a run, the Lions answered with one of their own, in the middle of the set, they frustrated the Cougars and Paradise Adventist began to make some mistakes, as the Lions lead got as high as 8 points at 15-7.  The Lions were communicating better, moving better, and working together more like we were familiar with.  After a timeout with the Lions leading 17-10, Paradise Adventist answered with a 6 point run to close to 17-16.  The Lions kept their poise though, and the game remained close all the way to the end, with the Lions losing the set 25-22, and the match 3-0.

With the way it ended, it could be easy to forget all this team accomplished.  They went 28-3-2 this season, winning both the Los Molinos and Fall River tournaments for the first time in school history.  They compliled the best record of any team since the Maxpreps records were available in 2004.  They went unbeaten in league for the first time since 2004.  And they made it to the section title game for the fourth time in school history.  And the season is not yet done, as both teams who make it to the section title game qualify for the Northern California State tournament, along with the section champion and runner up in the Sac-Joachim and North Coast and San Francisco sections.  They await their seeding and first round matchup for a match that will be played Tuesday evening.

*In my last article, I incorrectly stated that the team won the 2013 section title.  They lost the title game to Maxwell that year, and maxprep records were incorrect.