MERCED — Cougar Arena fell silent as Atwater star Brigette Berlier lay on the floor.
The Falcons outside hitter was in tears after her left foot came down on top of the foot of Golden Valley middleblocker Belen Castillo at the net during the first game of the match. Berlier rolled her ankle and was out for the match.
"I knew it was bad when I saw Brigette grab for the net to try to brace herself," Cougars coach Matt Thissen said. "That's what we teach our girls to do. I think it affected both teams. You hate to see something like that."
The Falcons were struggling with Berlier. Without its four-year starter, Atwater unraveled as Golden Valley cruised to a 25-17, 25-23, 25-17 win in the Central California Conference opener for both teams Tuesday night.
"I think any team would have been shook after that," said Castillo, who led the Cougars with 19 kills and five blocks. "She's an important part of their team. It's never fun to see someone go down like that."
Berlier rarely comes off the court for the Falcons. Atwater leaned on its other star, Hannah Van Warmerdam, even more than usual and she delivered with 16 kills and two aces. But the Falcons made too many mistakes to stay with the Cougars.
Berlier is expected to miss four weeks with a sprained ankle, according to Atwater coach Toni Gacia.
Golden Valley (3-1 overall) got solid play from its back row, including Emma Zacharias (12 digs and 3 aces).
"Emma Zacharias has really passed well all year," Thissen said. "It really helps out when our passes are on the money. Yeah, (setter) Camille (Flores) has Belen, but she has other options. But when it's not a good pass, everyone in the gym knows where she's going high and outside."
Castillo and Van Warmerdam put on a show in the second game as they wowed the crowd with impressive kill after kill as the teams were even at 22-all.
However, it was Castillo coming up with two kills down the stretch as the Cougars took a 2-0 lead with a 25-23 win in Game 2.
Castillo liked the way Golden Valley's young team has come together early this season.
"I think our team chemistry is really good right now," Castillo said. "I'm excited to see how this season goes."
Golden Valley jumped to a big 15-6 lead early in Game 3 and closed out the victory with a 25-17 win.
Turlock 3, Buhach Colony 0
ATWATER The Bulldogs defeated the Thunder 25-23, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22 behind 12 kills from Victoria Larson.
Pitman 3, Merced 1
TURLOCK Lindsey Vander Weide's 21 kills led the Pride past the Bears.