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Slow to start, quick to finish GV weathers Merced attack early on

Just about five minutes into Tuesday night's first game, Matt Thissen was forced to call a timeout.

With Merced flying out to a 7-1 lead, the Golden Valley volleyball coach gently reminded his squad that their cross-town rivals weren't just going to roll over for the Central California Conference front runners.

Thissen's message appeared to hit home.

Golden Valley rallied back to take the first game and didn't ease off the gas -- sweeping Merced 25-20, 25-11, 25-13 in a little over an hour.

"For some reason we came out tight tonight," Thissen said. "Once we relaxed, we were fine."

Alison Hague served as GV's calming force.

The senior setter worked her magic by distributing the ball and getting all of GV's offensive weapons involved in the match.

Katelyn Bennett (seven kills), Kaitlin Davidson (six), Celeste Castillo (six) and Gina Bandoni (five) took turns leading Golden Valley's charge.

"It was a terrible start to the match," said Hague, who had a match-high 23 assists and five aces.

"We knew they were down, and I think we were a little overconfident.

"It's our rivalry game, and so we just decided we needed to pick it up."

The win put Golden Valley (5-0) all alone atop the CCC standings after Buhach Colony's loss to Atwater.

GV will attempt to expand its lead when it travels to BC (4-1 CCC) on Thursday.

"We got the win we needed today," Hague said. "Now we can focus all our energy on getting ready for Buhach."

While Golden Valley's fluid offense sealed the victory, Merced's lack of a passing game opened the door.

Brooke Wilson's young squad showed its potential, jumping out to that lead in the opening game.

Unfortunately, Merced (1-5 CCC) couldn't sustain its form.

Merced committed 32 unforced errors and seemed to lose all composure.

Setters Meredeth Long and Kelsie Hanson were forced to chase passes all over the court, often leading to free balls or weak offensive efforts.

Led by Castillo's six blocks, Golden Valley's big front line happily feasted upon the disarray.

Merced's Rebecca Garitano did find some success, recording a match-high eight kills in the loss.

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at