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Merced's thrilling postseason run ends at hands of Davis Sr.

DAVIS -- Merced's Via bus finally changed back into a pumpkin.

Third-seeded Davis Senior ended the Cinderella playoff run of No. 15 Merced with a 25-6, 25-22, 25-1 sweep in the Sac-Joaquin Section

Division I semifinals on Tuesday night at Davis.

"I'm ridiculously proud of them," said Merced coach Brooke Wilson, who was trying to lead Merced to its first section title game appearance since 1981.

"Merced isn't known for volleyball. I think we're still shocked we made it this far. They worked so hard to get here. They earned it."

Merced had reached the semifinals with two dramatic five-game thrillers last week. The magic finally ran out against the best team it faced this season.

Davis (19-4) was just too tall, too quick and too good.

Davis will face top seed Nevada Union in Thursday's section championship game at U.C. Davis.

Nevada Union defeated Lodi 25-11, 25-21, 25-10 on Tuesday night.

"We hadn't played a team like that in awhile," said Merced senior Erika Marmolejo, who finished with three blocks and nine digs.

"We didn't come in timid. I didn't think we played scared. We just didn't play up to our potential."

With a front row that included three players at least 6-feet, Davis came out hammering Merced (18-9) in the first game.

"I think they're a great team," Wilson said. "That's definitely not the way we wanted to go out. We definitely didn't play up to our potential.

"Their transition game is just so quick. It's something we hadn't seen. There were times we didn't even get a block up, they were so quick.

Of the whole run to semifinals, however, Wilson made it clear everyone was thrilled.

"It was so much fun," she said. "It's the highlight of all my volleyball years. It was a great season."

Davis scored the first 10 points of the match and jumped out to a 19-2 lead. After a 25-6 win in the first game, it looked like Merced was going to get blown out of the gym.

Not quite.

Merced showed why it was still wearing the glass slippers in the second game by going right at its taller opponents.

All of a sudden, Merced's offense started clicking as Kelsie Hanson, Marmolejo and Hilary Kirschman started firing shots over, through and around Davis' formidable block.

Merced had built a 13-7 lead and had Davis on its heels.

However, Davis turned to its 6-foot star, Chloe McGuire, who powered her team back into the game with three straight kills to cut the lead to 14-11. Davis came up big down the stretch, winning six of the final eight points, to take a

2-0 lead with a 25-22 win.

"We didn't know what to expect," Davis coach Leigh Whitmire said. "We wanted

to see what Merced had. They had some good blockers. They gave us a run for our money in the second game. But one of the things we've worked on is not letting up."

Merced hung around in the third game, but never threatened to get back in the match. After Davis finished off the three-game sweep, the crowd of about 50 people that made the long drive from Merced to Davis gave Merced a standing ovation.

"It's sad, but I'm also relieved," Merced setter

Laura Meller said. "We went a long way. Merced hasn't gone this far in a long time."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at"> or 385-2462.