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Warriors punch return ticket to championship match
For the second consecutive year the Mercy High volleyball team is in the Northern Section Division VI championship game.
Facing an ever-improving Redding Christian in the semifinals Thursday in Red Bluff, the Warriors escaped with a 24-26, 25-23, 25-9, 20-25, 15-6 victory, their second five-game victory against the Lions in two weeks.
"(Redding Christian) just kept getting better, and better, and better as the season went. They just had a slow start and we started strong and finished strong. It was a fun season, I would have loved to see that game on Saturday. This was our hardest match of the season that we won," Mercy coach Zane Zelei said.
Mercy (28-10) plays against Liberty Christian (17-13-3) - a team the Warriors beat three times during the regular season - in the championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Red Bluff High.
After watching Redding Christian (23-9-2) tie the match in Game 4, the Warriors took control of the fifth and final game early on with three kills by senior middle hitter Ella Fleet.
"We knew that we could do it and we knew that we had to fight for this game because we played them before and they're a tough competitor, they're a solid team," Fleet said.
Junior middle blocker Jesscia Curl made sure the Lions stayed far behind with three consecutive kills down the stretch before Fleet ended it with a kill, giving Mercy the win.
Redding Christian made a statement that they weren't going to go away easily in the first game, roaring back from a 24-22 deficit and winning 26-24 on a block by Sarah Rogers, overcoming seven kills by Fleet.
Mercy took a timeout early in the second game after the Lions jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Warriors regrouped and tied the game 10-10 with an ace by Breana Kemp. Mercy build a 17-11 lead with the help of three kills and a block by Curl but the Lions went on a 8-1 run to retake the lead.
Senior outside hitter Mariah Kingwell put Mercy back ahead with an ace and Kemp dropped a tip into an open space to knot the match at a game apiece.
Curl was unstoppable in the third set, racking up five kills and served four consecutive aces to close out a 25-9 game.
The Warriors' strength is everyone's ability to hit which keeps opposing defenses from locking down one area of the court, according to Curl.
"Our coach has really taught us how to hit every position, every player knows how to hit every position," Curl said.
The Lions caught fire with the score tied 15-15 in Game 4 and sent the match into a deciding fifth game.
"We had to want it more than them. We worked hard to beat them and to work on what they do so we can cover it," Curl said.
Mercy's senior captain Kayce Kemp's calm under pressure was a deciding factor in the game, Zelei said. As the team's setter, she distributed the ball around to Fleet (18 kills), Curl (15 ), Breana Kemp (11) and Kingwell (6). Kemp accounted for 48 assists.
Kemp's leadership and the Warriors' solid passing contributed the to thrilling victory.
"I think Kayce, our captain, has a lot to do with it, she called a timeout on her own. I love that. She takes charge and talks to the team," Zelei said.
Dyan Tomfohr led Redding Christian with 11 kills and five blocks but the Warriors contained her in the fifth game.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.