DAVIS -- The Oakdale High volleyball team advanced to the section championship because of scrappy play and a host of outside hitters who can put away a kill.
But the Mustangs ran into a team that was just a little better at every facet of the game in St. Mary's of Stockton on Thursday night.
The Rams pounded away at Oakdale, rolling to a 25-21, 25-22, 25-14 victory in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Championship match at UC Davis. It's the third consecutive section championship for the Rams, who beat Oakdale here in 2006.
The season isn't over for the Mustangs. They'll open play in the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs Tuesday. As section runner-up, Oakdale will be on the road. The brackets will be released on www.cifstate.org Sunday afternoon.
Between now and then, the Mustangs will have Thursday's match on their minds.
"We just weren't on tonight," Oakdale coach Shelli Ponce said. "The girls were relaxed and ready to play. I don't think it was nerves. For some reason, we just weren't in sync."
The Rams, meanwhile, went to work, with outside hitter Ariel Bryant (12 kills) leading the way. The final outcome was more than a little stunning for the Mustangs and their fans.
"It's kind of a wake-up call for us," said Oakdale outside hitter Jaci Powell, who led her team with eight kills. "We have to go into every match with a lot of confidence."
Ponce said her team will put this loss behind it and prepare for NorCals.
"We need to come back on Tuesday and play hard," she said. "It would be a big step for the program, to win that first NorCal match."
It'll be a road trip for the Mustangs. They could travel north, or to the Bay Area.
"We've got a long trip in front of us," Powell said. "But we'll be ready."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.