SONORA -- The Oakdale High volleyball team had just been smoked 25-12 in the first game of its key match against Sonora on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs looked so poor that coach Shelli Ponce pulled her team completely off the court.
"We just needed to regroup," she said. "That first game wasn't pretty."
Whatever Ponce said, it worked. The Mustangs rallied for a 12-25, 25-21, 25-14, 21-25, 15-11 victory, seizing control early in the fifth game in front of about 200 at Bud Castle Gymnasium.
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Sonora (11-1, 5-1 VOL) suffered its first loss of the year, falling a game behind first-place Sierra (6-0 VOL), which Sonora visits Thursday. After two early losses, Oakdale (11-3, 4-2) is back in the Valley Oak League title race.
"We thought this was must-win," said Alexis Evans, who led Oakdale with 10 kills. "Not only is this our big rival, but it's big for league, too."
The junior played a big role in the fifth game.
She pounded four kills in a row, extending the Mustangs' lead to 12-7, before they finished it off.
"Even though they won the fourth game, we felt we never lost the momentum," Evans said. "We kept playing well."
Setter Jackee Lee led Oakdale with 26 assists and two aces. Jaci Powell added 14 digs and Jessicca Norgard and Emily Shepherd had four blocks.
Sonora, meanwhile, struggled with the loss of second setter Rebekah Garvin, who broke her finger during a soccer game over the weekend. So the team moved away from a two-setter rotation, handing all setting duties to Ali Chabot (26 assists).
"She changed formations and changed some of our serve-receives," Sonora coach Kathy Spotorno said. "I thought the girls adjusted and played pretty well.
"But we needed to minimize our mistakes. They cost us tonight."
Allison Holt led Sonora with 16 kills and Chabot and Kimmy Vilek each had four aces.
"A loss isn't always a bad thing," Spotorno said. "The girls are going to learn from this and get better. Hopefully for Sierra on Thursday."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.