After losing its opening match, Taft College won three straight to claim the consolation crown Saturday in the San Joaquin Delta volleyball tournament.
TC dropped its opening match to host Delta in three sets before sweeping West Valley 25-23, 25-15, 26-24, defeating powerhouse Butte in four (23-25, 25-16, 26-24, 26-24) and finishing it all off by sweeping Modesto 25-19, 25-21, 25-20.
“We walked away learning a lot,” head coach Kanoe Bandy said about her young team. “Every single game we got better. At the end the team was mentally and physically exhausted, but it was a good learning experience for all of us.”
The Cougars will take a 4-2 record into Wednesday’s three-team mini-tournament in Santa Maria against host Allan Hancock and Cerro Coso of Ridgecrest.
The Cougars will hit the road again Saturday for the one-day San Diego City College tournament.
Bandy singled out the work of sophomore outside hitter Tiffany Mapusaga, who had a solid effort in the Delta tournament both offensively and defensively.
“Tiffany is an outside hitter but really helped us because of the way she passed the ball. She was phenomenal,” Bandy said.
“Tiffany was definitely our leader defensively. She plays the left side but when she is in the back she plays the middle instead and delivered 52 digs for the tournament.”
Because her team lacks height for blocking they have to make it for it with solid defense.
“When we block we were good at what we do, but we dug and passed the ball very well,” Bandy said.
Freshman Chelsea Wong had a solid outing in the Butte match with 16 of her 37 digs in that four-set victory.
“Butte is a very solid, hard-hitting team and her 16 digs in a four-game set was big.”
In attacks, Risha Alaiasa, a 5-foot-5 outside hitter from Kahuku, Hawaii, led the team with 35 kills for the tournament. Maeleen Hopeau, a 5-9 freshman, and Wong both had 31 kills and Mapusaga added 25.
A look at how Central Valley Conference teams have fared so far shows surprisingly strong Columbia leading the pack at 6-2 followed by Taft and Porterville at 4-2, Reedley 3-3, Merced 3-4, five-time defending champion Fresno 1-3, West Hills 1-4 and Sequoias 0-4. Both Taft losses were to Delta – a home match Sept. 6 and then in the tournament.
Fresno’s uncharacteristic start is surprising to Bandy.
“Fresno did not fare well in the Delta tournament,” she said. “They came in as the No. 1 seed and drew a first-round bye, then lost to Foothill and American River. Cabrillo, which has an outstanding team, won the tournament.”