American River reverses momentum in 4-Set win over El Camino

American River advances to the CCCAA State Semifinals with a 3-1 win over El Camino at the 2018 CCCAA Women?s Volleyball State Championships November 30 at Solano College. Photo by David Sanborn for the CCCAA.
American River advances to the CCCAA State Semifinals with a 3-1 win over El Camino at the 2018 CCCAA Women?s Volleyball State Championships November 30 at Solano College. Photo by David Sanborn for the CCCAA.

(Fairfield, Calif.) -- Everything appeared to be going well for South #3 seed El Camino College, a team ranked in the top 5 for most of the season. After the Warriors trounced North #2 American River by a 14-point margin, ECC had thoughts of moving on to the semifinals. Instead, the Beavers made adjustments on defense and performed the ultimate recovery in winning in four sets, 11-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-20, in a CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship quarterfinal Friday afternoon at Solano College.

ARC (23-7) moves on to face South #1 Irvine Valley on Saturday in a semifinals match at 2 p.m. El Camino's season closes at 23-4 as it finishes in a tie for fifth place at the single-elimination tourney.

The Beavers were paced by brilliant defense from libero Maddie Adams, who totaled 25 digs, several of which were point-saving plays. Lily Johnson stepped up with 15 kills and 14 digs while Andreia Keane added 12 kills and 14 digs. All-Region hitter/setter Savanah Smith had a strong all-around match with nine kills, 25 assists, 10 digs and five block assists. Allison Linder added eight kills (hit .533 in 15 attempts) off the bench. Kendall Welpott did her part in the middle with six kills and four blocks. 

El Camino was led by All-American First Teamer Phina Leilua, who recorded 18 kills but on 64 swings, and added 10 digs. Mikayla Clark scored nine kills and Kelly Donatucci made 24 digs and served two aces. 

ARC head coach Carson Lowden summed up the turnaround. "I told the team at end of the first set that the good thing was El Camino hadn't even seen us yet, and that means they don't even know what's coming. One of our players even said, 'we don't let another team embarrass us, we embarrass us!' You have to keep it light after a set like that, and we just started to play our type of volleyball."

After scoring 12 kills in the first two sets, Leilua was kept in check the final two sets after adjustments made by American River. 

"I had a talk with (Adams) after the first set about being ready to defend Phina's crosscourt attacks. It's unusual for us to see a player making so many attacks from the back row. I felt we slowed her down over the course of the match."

ARC went on a 9-0 run to start the second set and all but erase the 10 attack errrors it made in the opening set. The Beavers used a pair of 3-point wins to go ahead, 2-1 in sets. In the fourth set, El Camino grabbed a 12-7 lead in trying to force a fifth set. Again, ARC responded as the Beavers soared on a 7-1 run capped by kills from Smith and Keane to take a 14-13 lead. A 9-4 American River spurt put the match away.