In a battle between the only two undefeated teams in the PAC 7, San Luis Obispo High’s girls volleyball team was one point away from winning the first set in a match with Arroyo Grande after rallying from a seven-point deficit.
But the Tigers (15-3, 3-1 PAC 7) lost their slim lead, then the set, and the match seemed to go with it.
Arroyo Grande ended up sweeping the contest at San Luis Obispo’s gym 26-24, 25-21, 25-14.
Using their height at the net with powerful hitters Alyssa Koenig (6-foot-2) and Millisa Morrow (6-0) thundering away spikes off nifty sets by Alaina Hogeboom, Arroyo Grande (13-3, 5-0) seemed a little sharper than the Tigers for most of the match.
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San Luis Obispo coach Manny Carter said if the Tigers could have gotten that first set, the outcome could have turned.
“That first set would have given us a lot of momentum,” Carter said. “After losing the second, I think we just got a little deflated. They were the better team tonight.”
The match between the league’s best thus far might have been closer, but the Tigers were dealing with sickness and injury.
Some of their players had strep throat this week, Carter said, and standout setter Maggie Eppright was fighting a sprained left ankle she suffered in a game against San Marcos on Sept. 20. Libero Erin Good has been battling an ankle injury.
Carter didn’t want to use those as excuses, but it was apparent the activity on the Eagles’ side of the net seemed to pick up as the match went on as the Tigers struggled to craft well-timed and well-positioned points.
“San Luis Obispo played a good match,” Arroyo Grande coach Ernie Santa Cruz said. “They were tough. But I think some errors took way from a match that could have been played at a higher level.”
The pivotal first game saw Arroyo Grande take a 20-13 lead before the Tigers roared back with eight straight points to go up 21-20, most of them on Anna Pederson’s serve.
The Eagles and Tigers see-sawed the rest of the way in the set, and Arroyo Grande pulled ahead after facing set point on two soft-touch kills by Koenig, who finished with a match-high 16 kills.
Koenig has verbally committed to the University of Utah, where she plans to play volleyball on a full-ride scholarship, she said after the match.
“I thought we came together really well tonight,” Koenig said. “We had that great first set save and it was important to get off to a good start. This was a good day for us.”
Morrow had 15 kills most of them coming off sets from Hogeboom, who finished with 36 assists. Jade Fuller had 21 digs for the Eagles.
“We lost our focus in that first set, but I thought we pulled together really well,” Morrow said. “We basically regrouped and got ourselves going again.”
After belting out a beautiful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner in front of a large crowd, Eppright battled through her injury to rack up 26 assists and some key touch kills.
Ariel Becker led the Tigers with 11 kills and Erin Good had 16 digs.
“I didn’t feel my ankle in the first two games, but I did in the third,” said Eppright, revealing a brace she wore throughout the match.
“It wasn’t too bad though. I think this match was an eye-opener, and it will definitely make us work harder in practice.”
Eppright said the only challenge in singing the national anthem was the quick turnaround after warmups.
“I’ve sang before in school assemblies and our last CIF game,” Eppright said. “It’s funny because you’re warming up and then you have to try to catch your breath.”