Taft College wasn’t sharp in Monday night’s home Central Valley Conference volleyball match against the Merced Blue Devils but managed to escape with a four-set victory.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said head coach Kanoe Bandy after her team improved to 7-4 in the CVC with a 25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 26-16 victory.
When the teams played in Merced in first-round action the Cougars breezed in three sets.
“I didn’t enjoy watching it at all,” Bandy said. “I think they are mentally exhausted. I think we’ll cancel practice tomorrow.”
The Cougars were coming off a two-match road trip against the two top teams in the conference – undefeated Fresno and twice-beaten Porterville – matches they lost.
The day before the Merced match, Bandy hosted her team to a pumpkin carving party “to help relieve the pressure a little bit.”
The Cougars got off to a slow start, trailing the Blue Devils through the first set until Sina Mauga got a kill off a short-set from Rachel Kapesi to tie it at 21.
TC went ahead on a Merced hitting error before Merced tied it on a TC error.
Chanel Cantere, who led the Cougar offense with 21 kills, finished the job with back-to-back kills.
In set two, TC grabbed a 3-2 lead on a kill by Ono Taotofi, who had eight on the night. The Cougars led by as many as eight and staved off a late Blue Devil surge to win by six. Cantere again scored the clincher.
TC had a 3-2 lead in the third set but Merced took over and maintained a 4-8 point lead to send the match into a fourth set – one the Cougars dominated.
The defensive effort was led by Tiffany Mapusaga’s 18 digs. She was followed by Kapesi’s 16, Cantere with 12, Tyra Williams with 11 and Kristen Kamakele with 8.
Madison Lawley and Mauga had three blocks each.
Setter Kapesi tossed up 47 assists.
The Cougars, 14-7 overall, are in Coalinga tonight to play West Hills, a team they easily swept in the first round.
TC plays its final home match next Wednesday when College of the Sequoias comes to town. It will be the team’s annual canned food drive. Canned goods instead of cash gets you in the door at the Al Baldock Cougar Sports Center.