The latest chapter in a cross-county rivalry between Templeton and Nipomo high schools in girls volleyball resulted in a hard-fought 3-1 win for the Eagles on Tuesday.
Templeton (10-4, 4-0 Los Padres League) won 25-17, 21-25, 25-22, 25-20 on its home court in a battle between some of the county’s biggest hitters.
Templeton has not lost a match in a non-tournament game this season, and the Eagles have recorded big wins against Atascadero, St. Joseph and Arroyo Grande in nonleague play.
Autumn Russell tallied 13 kills, eight aces, eight digs and two blocks for the Eagles in Tuesday’s win.
“We had a slow start tonight,” Russell said. “But we came back and won and that’s what mattered. We just have to continue to work hard.”
Each time the Eagles needed a key point, Russell, a 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter, seemed to give them a boost. The left-hander hit booming top-spin serves that were difficult for the Titans to handle.
In the final set, with Nipomo ahead 13-10, Russell tallied two aces and a kill while serving for the Eagles to tie the score at 13.
Her clutch play was complemented by Lauren Ralston’s 10 kills and five blocks, Josi Kelly’s 24 assists and four aces, and Marissa Torres’ 24 digs.
“I’m super proud of the way we fought,” Eagles coach Jodi Kelly said. “We fought against them, we fought against ourselves. We were struggling, but we stuck it out.
“I’ve seen Nipomo High play very well. By no means did we go into this thinking it would be easy.”
Nipomo (3-8, 1-2) rallied behind the thunderous hits of Taylor Nevitt, who had 11 kills, and Sami Baker, who had 10 kills.
Both 6-1 hitters presented difficulties for the Eagles. Nipomo took leads of 7-4 in the first two sets, losing the first game and pulling out the second.
Nipomo’s Megan Penaflor finished with 26 assists and 11 digs.
“We have a talented team and, at this point, it’s just about believing we can do it,” Nipomo coach David Cassidy said. “It’s mind over matter.”
Baker said she was fired up by the raucous Templeton student fans, which helped motivate her to pound balls over the net.
“I think I shut up a few Templeton guys after they were saying my tips (for dump shots over blockers) were weak,” Baker said. “I slammed one right down the line.”
Baker said the improvement for her team needs to come in the passing game. Trying to move the ball crisply will help set up easier points, she said.
“We played well, but we’ll have to get better on some things,” Baker said.
“We’ll need to work on passing. They also got on some runs, and we had trouble stopping those.”
A highlight for the Titans in the second set was a string of three consecutive aces from Lacy LeBlanc, which gave Nipomo an 18-17 lead.
But the all-around attack of the Eagles was too much as Lucy Portillo had four blocks and five kills, and Elsa Strysko and Julie Cates each had seven kills for Templeton.
“We go to Cabrillo and Santa Ynez coming up next in league,” coach Kelly said. “Those are going to be big matches for us. We’ll have to play tough.”