Balance tips toward Fresno in upset over Bakersfield

Fresno City with the upset over Bakersfield Friday night in the CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship quarterfinals at Solano College, photo by David Sanborn for CCCAA.
Fresno City with the upset over Bakersfield Friday night in the CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship quarterfinals at Solano College, photo by David Sanborn for CCCAA.

(Fairfield, Calif.) -- Fresno City College pulled off the upset over state No. 2-ranked Bakersfield, 25-17, 26-24, 12-25, 25-21, in the state quarterfinals of the CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship Friday at Solano College. In the process, the Rams extended their winning streak to 26 matches while ending the South #2 seed Renegades 19-match win string.

Fresno (28-3) advances to the state semifinals on Saturday when it faces the winner of tonight's North #1 Gavilan v. South #4 Cypress quarterfinal. Bakersfield ended a tremendous season at 25-2. Its only other loss early in the regular season against Long Beach City College.

The Rams used an offense that spread to all six starters. Marina Gonzalez, Mia Corippo, Keri Leake, Abbey Briggs, hitter-turned-setter Katie Emmerling, and Julie Castleman all had kills in each of the first three sets and only Emmerling didn't record a kill in the fourth set. Overall, Gonzalez led the way with 15 kills (and 14 digs plus three aces) while Leake, an All-American Second Team selection, had 10 kills. Mandy Campise contributed 22 digs. But the big story was Emmerling, who dished out 44 assists along with five kills and eight digs.

"We moved Katie to setter only three-and-a-half months ago," said FCC head coach Kieran Roblee. "She was our kills leader as our left pin last year. So we move her over to a new position slowly in a 6-2 (offense). Then there was injury to our other setter, and next thing you know she's it in a 5-1. I'm so proud of her. She has a good swing herself, but we our balanced. We had a similar balance two years ago when we won the state title."

For Bakersfield, First Team All-American setter Sarah Armendariz tallied 27 assists, 14 digs, five block assists and five kills in yet another all-around performance that made her such a valuable cog in the Renegades' state tourney run. Penelope Zepeda scored 15 kills (hit .275) and had 11 digs while Lanie Camarillo also made a double-double on 12 kills and 10 digs (and four blocks). Kohra Garcia, playing her first match of the year at libero, was sensational as she made 19 digs and added five assists. 

"We've never faced a team so balanced across the entire 30 feet of net," said Bakersfield coach Carl Ferreira. "They earned that win. We came back in that third set and then we kept trading points in the fourth. Our hitters just weren't clean enough at the edge of blocks. You have to give Fresno a lot of credit. For us, our libero was outstanding."

Roblee was impressed by Bakersfield. "They played outstanding defense and did a great job of blocking us. I told our players after losing the third set to just let it go. We don't want emotion to dictate our play. We stayed calm and collected and went out there and got back to playing our game in the fourth."

FCC at one point was 2-3 this season. Fresno once again stretched its long winning streak as part of a Central Valley Conference dynasty run. The Rams will have a 112-match CVC-only win streak going into next season and have won 12 consecutive conference crowns. Now, they are two steps from attempting to win a second state title in a three-year period.

All three First Team All-Americans from the regular season saw their community college careers end today with Mapu Sekona (West Valley) and Phina Leilua (El Camino) joining Armendariz as playing on the losing side of the first three quarterfinal matches played. Bakersfield finishes in a tie for fifth place at the state tourney.