BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to THe Californian
Centennial's Central Section Division I quarterfinal volleyball playoff victory over Clovis North on Thursday night was a battle of will as much as of skill.
And the top-seeded Golden Hawks demonstrated that they're one determined bunch, beating the visiting Broncos in a five-game thriller, 25-17, 25-22, 20-25, 18-25, 15-7.
With momentum clearly in No. 8 Clovis North's favor, Centennial (24-10) came out and dominated the fifth and deciding game behind a tenacious defensive effort. The Golden Hawks scored the first six points of the final set and never were seriously threatened.
"These girls would not roll over and die," Centennial coach Brooke Roberts said. "They would not give in. They refused to lose, so to speak. This team has all the intangible qualities that have absolutely nothing to do with volleyball."
Centennial will next host a semifinal match against No. 4 Clovis on Tuesday night.
Senior standout Abby Campbell, who injured her right leg early in the fourth game and had to come out for a few minutes, led Centennial with 20 kills and 23 digs. Cassidy George added 15 kills and 5 blocks and Tori Smith tallied 23 digs and 49 assists for the Golden Hawks, who improved to 4-0 against Tri-River Athletic Conference teams this year and 3-1 all-time against Clovis North.
"It kind of showed us what we were made of, what happens when we get put under a lot of pressure," Campbell said. "Because (Clovis North) one of better teams that we've seen. We have an amazing league but they definitely tested us tonight."
Campbell said her injury was a patella tendon and knee cap that popped out of place but that she was able to pop it back in place.
Playing stout defense and making very few ball-handling or hitting errors through the first two games, the Golden Hawks looked like they were going to sweep the Broncos.
But Clovis North (24-11) behind the strong play of its middle blockers and a plethora of kills by 6-foot outside hitter Sabrina Winslow, steadily fought its way back into the match, winning a tight third game before taking Game No. 4 easily.
From there it was all downhill for the Broncos. After Centennial jumped out to a quick 1-0 fifth-game lead on a Campbell kill, Clovis North hit the ball into the net out of bounds four straight times.