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UPDATED: Warriors claim first Northern Section volleyball title in 10 years
RED BLUFF - Mercy High won its first Northern Section volleyball championship in 10 years, defeating Liberty Christian 3-1 in the Division VI title match Saturday in Red Bluff.
The Warriors (29-10) beat the Patriots (17-14-3) for the fourth time this year after Liberty Christian rose from the No. 10 seed to reach the championship match.
Mercy won three consecutive section titles from 2000 to 2002, but did not return to the championship until last season when the Warriors lost to Champion Christian. The loss in the championship match last year imparted a strong desire and work ethic that fueled their championship run this year, according to senior captain Kayce Kemp.
"Just to redeem ourselves we came back and worked harder than we did last year, it was really a group effort," she said.
Winning didn't come easy despite Liberty Christian's low seed. The Patriots made Mercy work for the section crown from the second game on, but the Warriors won 25-13, 25-27, 25-20 and 25-20.
Kemp made the most of her vast array of hitters, which opened lanes for her to drop in four tips late in the match.
"Liberty is definitely very scrappy and they got to a lot that I didn't think they were going to. They gave us a run for our money and we just persevered, kept our intensity, played our game and focused," Kemp said.
Ella Fleet led Mercy with 15 kills and Breana Kemp added 13. Jessica Curl served a game-high eight aces, including the match-winner, and had 11 kills.
Mercy jumped on Liberty Christian early and turned a 5-0 lead in the first game into an easy 25-13 win.
Senior outside hitter Mariah Kingwell had a big second game after the Warriors fell behind 11-2, scoring four kills and an ace, which helped Mercy come back to tie the game 23-23 before the Patriots escaped with their only game victory in the match. She ended the match with six kills and two aces.
"We're more family than we've ever been before and this means everything, this is what we've been working for all year. After being here last year and not making it, we wanted it this year," Kingwell said.
Liberty kept the pressure on in Game 3, taking a 5-2 lead before the Warriors went on a 17-5 run.
"We've always kind of been a comeback team," Kingwell said. "Like, we've got to get down on ourselves but we always bring it back. We let it get to us a little bit but we always come back and shake it off eventually."
Mercy once again needed to rally back in the fourth game after falling behind 6-1. Back-to-back kills by Curl gave the Warriors a 19-18 lead and Curl scored the final point of the match with an ace to win it.
The Warriors lose Fleet, Maddy Coelho, Mae Muller, Francesca Aguilar, Kingwell and Kayce Kemp to graduation, but should still be contenders next season with Curl, Breana Kemp, Michelle Jaramillo and Julia Misslin returning. Mercy's junior varsity team was strong this year and several of the players on that squad will help the Warriors reload, coach Zane Zelei said.
"The program is just getting stronger. It's so easy to get along with all the girls at Mercy plus they get a lot of play time, even when you don't get to play you're practicing every time," Zelei said.
Lacy Asdourian had a game-high 18 kills for the Patriots, who were especially impressive because they didn't have any players on their bench.
"Having six girls and playing iron man for the last seven games of the season, they're scrappy," Zelei said.
The championship win capped Mercy's season, as Division VI schools do not have state playoffs.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.