There was plenty of joy in the gym Wednesday night after the Taft College volleyball team defeated visiting College of the Sequoias and took another step toward a state playoff berth.
That was reason enough to celebrate, but the mood was made more festive with a large contingent from Hawai’i in the Cougar rooting section – all of them family of some of TC’s 10 players from the islands.
Players were showered with floral and candy leis after the 25-18, 23-25, 25-14, 25-10 victory that improved the Cougar record to 9-4 in the conference and 16-7 overall heading into tonight’s regular season finale at Reedley College.
“The (playoff) seeding meeting isn’t until Nov. 18, but we’re going to continue practicing in anticipation of getting into the playoffs,” said head coach Kanoe Bandy.
“But I think we really need to beat Reedley to make that happen. I think we’re a playoff team without question. How it all plays out remains to be seen.”
While the scores would lead one to believe the Cougars had an easy time with COS, that wasn’t the case.
“They (COS) had a really nice defense,” Bandy said. “They dug a lot of balls. We hit a lot of balls and had to keep hitting before we got them to fall.”
Crowd-pleasing rallies were abundant.
Sequoias overcame a slow start in the second set, trailing the Cougars 5-1 early before taking the lead at 8-7 and never looking back. TC stayed close but couldn’t reel the Giants back.
That long set took a lot of steam out of the Giants.
In set three the Cougars went on a 7-0 run behind the effective serving of freshman libero Tiffany Mapusaga – a surge that buried the Giants.
Taft raced out to a 7-1 lead in the final set behind leading hitter Chanel Cantere who had 12 kills on the night.
Cantere, who ranks sixth in the state in kills, added 16 digs on defense.
She had a solid supporting cast.
Sina Mauga had 9, and Madison Lawley, Ono Taotofi and Tyra Williams all had 8.
Mapusaga led the defensive effort with 17 digs, Williams had 12, Kristin Kamakele 9, Mauga 7, Rachel Kapesi 6, and Dylan Parkerand Taotofi one each.
Kapesi, with 27 assists and Kerstyn Randall with 12 shared the setting chores.
Mauga, who ranks second in the state in blocks, led all players with 9 while Cantere, Lawley, Taotofi and Williams all had 3.