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Golden Valley claims CCC title

MERCED — As the ball softly touched the floor, Katelyn Bennett collapsed to the ground.

Other Golden Valley High volleyball players ran around looking for someone to hug.

Bennett and her teammates had just won a Central California Conference volleyball championship in a match that won't soon be forgotten by either side.

Nearly 800 people showed up to watch GV outlast Buhach Colony 18-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-14, 16-14.

"I just feel overwhelmed," Bennett said. "We worked so hard. It's the best feeling I've ever felt.

"Our number will be on that banner on the wall."

Buhach Colony (14-2, 10-2 CCC) looked like it was going to run GV out of Cougar Arena early.

Megan Callahan (19 kills) and Rio Schwalbach led the way as BC cruised to an easy win in the first game and dominated early in Game 2.

It was one point that seemed to turn around the match for Golden Valley.

With BC ahead 16-11, Gina Bandoni came up with a couple huge digs as BC's top hitters whaled away at GV's defense.

Bandoni helped keep the ball in play long enough for Bennett to tip a ball over the net for a Golden Valley point.

The long rally got the Golden Valley crowd into the match. Suddenly, GV's players had life and it wasn't long before they were back in the match.

Golden Valley (15-2, 11-1) went on to score six consecutive points and eventually won Game 2 to tie the match.

"Buhach must have unleashed five big shots on that play," GV coach Matt Thissen said. "It was like in the movies when Rocky finally cuts Ivan Drago and realizes he could bleed.

"It was definitely a huge play for us, and Gina was a spark for us and our crowd."

Momentum switched sides fast and furious the rest of the way.

Buhach Colony regrouped quickly to take Game 3 and GV rebounded in Game 4.

"This match was just so emotionally draining," said Bennett, who finished with 11 kills and eight blocks. "I didn't play my best, but I've never played harder."

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