BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
Maybe early in the season an 18-14 first-game deficit would have spelled doom the Ridgeview volleyball team.
But as the Wolf Pack demonstrated on Tuesday, it has matured and improved since starting the year 0-3-2.
Ridgeview battled from a slow start to claim a convincing Central Section Division III first-round playoff victory over visiting East, 25-21, 25-18, 25-12.
No. 7 Ridgeview, which made it to the section semifinals a year ago, next will travel to face second-seeded Visalia-Redwood on Thursday night.
"The girls have really turned into a family and they play as a team," Ridgeview coach Brandi Bazemore said. "They're a close group and they're a tough team to beat this year. They really are."
Jacquelyn Johnson was the star for Ridgeview (16-10-2) against No. 10 East. The senior middle blocker had 15 kills, three blocks, and 11 digs as the Wolf Pack, won for a seventh straight time.
Berenice Medina had 4 kills and nine digs for East (14-16-2), which finished the year with more wins than their previous three seasons combined.
Trailing by four, Ridgeview closed out the first game on an 11-3 run that was sparked by Johnson.
The Ridgeview captain had three kills, a block, and an ace during the pivotal spurt.
There were four lead changes during the opening game before Ridgeview took the lead for good, 22-21, on an East spike into the net. Moments later the Wolf Pack clinched the game with back-to-back kills by Monique Montoya and a Johnson serve that the Blades hit out of bounds.
Montoya finished with six kills.
The Blades played well early on but ultimately made too many ball-handling errors and had 12 service errors.
"I'm proud of these girls; they worked hard," East coach Johnitta Clemons said. "We don't have a bunch of club players so we don't have that experience yet. This is the first time I believe East High has been in the playoffs in 10 years ...
"Some of my girls are really young I just think the pressure got to them."