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Bears hold off Trojans' late rally
After a dominant first game by the Pierce High volleyball team on Tuesday in Arbuckle, Durham found its stroke and pushed the Bears to their limit.
Pierce (8-3) won the first game 25-11 and scored the final four points in Game 2 to win 25-21, but the Trojans were just getting warmed up.
The visitors from the other side of the Sacramento River pulled away early in the third game for a 25-16 victory and led 23-21 in the fourth, before Pierce put together another late four-point rally to win 25-23.
There won't be any room for a letdown in the Sacramento Valley League this year with the introduction of four-time Division V champion Hamilton to an already tough league, which includes defending Division IV champion Willows and a much-improved Durham squad.
"We have a hard league this year and nothing is going to be easy. It's going to be whoever earns it on a given night, that's for sure," said Pierce coach Kim Travis.
Last season Durham finished out of the playoffs with a 10-20 record but are off to an 8-4 start this year. Travis prepared her team for the challenge by telling them about the tough pre-season schedule Durham played and how well they performed against quality opponents.
The Trojans' outside hitters - Summer Vercruysen and Katie Peterson - caught fire midway through the match Tuesday and gave the Bears' defense fits.
"They were definitely taking advantage of our shorter block in those two rotations and that's what I told the girls, you better just buckle down, get on your toes and get ready because they're going to shove it down your throat if they get a good set," Travis said.
Mariah Diaz and Natalie Corona were strong in the early going, dominating the first game. Corona had three kills while Diaz added two kills and a block in the opening game. Corona led the Bears with 10 kills and six blocks while, Diaz finished with seven kills and two blocks.
Durham tied the second game at 21-21 but a kill by Ellen Hansen and an ace by Bianca Vazquez provided the final two points of the game. Hansen finished the match with six kills, served two aces and made three blocks.
"We came in the huddle, took a breather and just told ourselves that we need to believe in ourselves and we just need to finish it," Hansen said.
After the Trojans went on a five-point run early in the third game and extended the lead with a six-point burst later on, Pierce put together a solid fourth game to win the match.
"It's a relief coming out winning the first two games, and even if they win the third game, I think it shows us we need to come in more enthused instead of thinking we're going to win the third game," Hansen said.
The Bears took an early 5-1 lead in the fourth game on a block by Mariah Diaz, an ace by Hilary Brainard and a block by Morgan Diaz. The Trojans clawed back in it and took a 14-13 lead on a kill by Vercruysen but Morgan Diaz responded with a kill of her own.
It was a back-and-forth affair the rest of the way before Morgan Diaz sealed the victory with a kill.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com.