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In her defense: Mendes works backcourt

HILMAR -- Lindsey Mendes came close to trading in her kneepads for golf clubs this year.

It took some coaxing from teammates to get her back on the volleyball court.

She looked happy with her decision Thursday night.

The junior libero dove all over the court on her way to 24 digs, and led No. 7 Hilmar to a 25-22, 25-15, 25-20 win over No. 15 Orestimba in the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

"I loved the game but I didn't know if I wanted to play," Mendes said. "Then it got to me and I had to play.

"I'm glad. It was a great decision."

Mendes has been the backbone of the defense that has helped Hilmar compile a 29-3 record.

They didn't make many mistakes against Orestimba.

"Lindsey's a stud," Hilmar coach Mike Alvernaz said. "She almost didn't play this year. She was going to play golf instead.

"She didn't think she'd make the team. She led our league in digs.

"Some of our girls talked her into playing. She's a smart player. She's not the fastest player, but she's learning how to read the hitter and anticipate where the ball is going to go."

Hilmar came out ready to face Orestimba for the fourth time this year.

John Labno's girls handed Hilmar's its only WAC loss this season the last time the two teams played.

"I'm kind of glad they beat us in league," Alvernaz said. "I didn't think our girls would underestimate them coming in.

"They kind of did us a favor."

Hilmar had Orestimba scrambling from the start.

Caitlin Benning led Hilmar's offensive attack with 11 kills and three blocks.

Setter Madison Harris finished with 28 assists and outside hitter Natalie Grubb chipped in with nine kills.

"They were more aggressive than we were," said Labno, whose team finished with a 23-10 record.

"We just sat back on defense and let them play their game. Last time we took it to them.

"That and service errors killed us. We had six or seven service errors, and on key points. It was like our girls thought we were playing on a 35-foot court instead of 30."

Hilmar will travel to Sacramento on Tuesday to face No. 6 Christian Brothers for a semifinal matchup.

Christian Brothers defeated No. 3 Loretto 25-21, 25-14, 27-25 on Thursday.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com">sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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