Gia Pridell was still in shock close to a half-hour after the match.
“How did we not win that?” the Le Grand High girls volleyball coach asked.
It may take weeks for Pridell to find the answer as the Bulldogs narrowly missed out on their first trip to a Sac-Joaquin Section championship match with a 21-25, 25-20, 20-25, 34-32, 15-13 heart-breaking, Division V semifinal match to Ripon Christian on Tuesday night at Le Grand High.
The No. 2 seeded Bulldogs (22-5) and their capacity crowd were ready to celebrate, but the third-seeded Knights (24-10) fought off five match points in the epic fourth game before winning 34-32 to force a fifth game.
The Knights then erased a 12-10 deficit in the fifth game by winning five of the final six points to close out the victory.
Ripon Christian will face top-seeded Colfax in the title game on Saturday in Natomas at noon.
“It was very emotional,” said Ripon Christian coach Ava Vander Woude of surviving the marathon fourth game. “I thought our girls did a great job of keeping their composure. I was proud of the way they fought until the end.”
The Bulldogs just could not find a way to slay the Knights.
The two teams have split their two previous league matches which led to a shared Southern League championship between the programs. It was just the third league championship in school history.
The Bulldogs are still chasing that first volleyball blue banner.
“It’s so hard because we were right there,” said Le Grand sophomore star Priscilla Barnett, who finished with 24 kills, four blocks and five aces. “We were right at the end, trying to win it. That just kills us.”
Le Grand junior Alexa Ultreras finished with 23 kills and four blocks and Alexis Aguallo chipped in with 21 digs.
The Bulldogs’ season doesn’t end. Le Grand will still have the NorCal playoffs to play.
However, this pain will sting for a while.
“It’s that curse of the semis,” Pridell said. “We can’t get past the semifinals. I thought this was the team. I thought this was the year, but it’s that curse.”
Stone Ridge Christian 3, Big Valley Christian 0 in Merced — The top-seeded Knights will get an opportunity to defend their Division VI section championship.
Stone Ridge Christian (33-4) swept the Lions 25-20, 25-18, 25-18 in the semifinals. The Knights will face Forest Lake Christian in the championship game at noon on Saturday at Ripon High School.
Maartje Vander Dussen led the Knights with 10 kills and four blocks. Sydney Shaw added 10 kills and 13 assists.
Nevada Union 3, Hilmar 2 in Grass Valley — The No. 4 seeded Yellowjackets almost upset the top seed in Division III before falling 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 19-25, 15-13.
Girls Water Polo
Merced 9, Beyer 7 in Modesto — The No. 10 Bears went on the road and defeated the No. 7 seeded Patriots in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. The win sets up a second-round match for Merced at No. 2 El Capitan on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Buhach Colony 18, Johansen 5 in Atwater — The Thunder opened the Division II playoffs with a blowout win over the Vikings. Gabi Perez paced BC with four goals and four assists. Syndey Abril, Caitlyn Bell and Jazzmin Hicks all added three goals for Buhach Colony.
The No. 8 Thunder will now face top-seeded Rio Americano on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.