El Diamante beats Monache 3-2 in quarterfinals

The ferocity Monache High School volleyball came out with was a prime indication of just how close the CIF Central Section Division II quarterfinal game between the Marauders and Miners of El Diamante could be in Tuesday’s playoff game in Visalia.

The reigning East Yosemite League and West Yosemite League champions went toe-to-toe, but it was the second-seeded Miners (27-4, 10-0 WYL) that came out on top with a 3-2 victory over the seventh-seeded Marauders (27-6, 10-0 EYL). Monache won the first (25-23) and third (25-23) sets, but lost the second (26-24), fourth (25-17) and fifth (15-6).

Getting past the quarterfinals and playing a semifinal game was Monache’s goal under three-year head coach Rosalia Quinones, but for the third year in a row the Marauders fell short.

Monache’s defense was mesmerizing and stellar in the first few sets, with players like senior Hailey Kelley, juniors Hally Flynn and Kristen Watson sacrificing their bodies for digs or saves. In the front row, the power of seniors Kelley, Madisyn Baxter and junior Tia Jules’ hits were hard to defend, while the three, as well as junior setter Gabriella Cox made a tough wall to hit against.

But somewhere in the fourth game the vigor that Monache had was dialed back due to mental mistakes, with violations like being out of rotation, double contacts, and touching the net. And while the Marauders struggled to come together, the Miners used the momentum shift in their favor.

Like the previous set, the fourth set saw multiple ties and lead changes, but El Diamante went on a six-point streak to build a lead, and then a four-point streak to win the game.

“I think we struggled on our passing,” Quinones said. “We had a lot of unforced errors, not bettering the ball. Just kind of fell apart there overall. Not blocking, leaving our back row defense hanging – not knowing where to go. Just kind of fell apart, we struggled. El D came out strong that fifth set, and you know, it’s a short game. Fifteen points. We just couldn’t pull through.”

The Miners scored all eight of their last points back-to-back to hold off the Marauders in the final set.

“I noticed a lot of stress,” Quinones said. “They were nervous. They wanted it very, very bad and they didn’t know how to stay in control, and I think that affected them.”

For Monache, Baxter finished with 11 kills, three blocks and one dig, while Kelley had 14 kills, nine digs and two blocks. Cox had 40 assists, 11 digs and two blocks. Watson – the team’s setter – had 20 digs.

“With five returners and two [four-year varsity] seniors – Hailey and Madisyn,” Quinones said. “They were just incredible to our program…They wanted it bad. They worked in the offseason and it was a struggle at the beginning. We worked up and down, trying to figure out rotations and where everybody fit in the puzzle, and we finally came through after that Redwood tournament. That’s where we lost to El D, and we lost [2-0] to them bad. And these girls wanted it really bad today. And props to El D, they’re very disciplined. It could’ve gone either way.”

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