By Nick Giannandrea
College of the Sequoias' women's volleyball team rides a five-match winning streak into an important week of Central Valley Conference action.
The Giants, who are ranked No. 9 in the latest California Community College Women's Volleyball Coaches' Association Top 25 poll, will travel to Taft on Oct. 13 and host Fresno City on Oct. 15. Both matches are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
The Cougars (7-5, 6-1) are tied with Sequoias (15-5, 6-1) for second place in the conference title race behind the first-place and state top-ranked Rams (18-2, 7-0).
The Giants, who are also No. 5 in Northern California, have their highest state ranking since Kim Rix took over as coach in 2014.
"To be No. 9 in the state and No. 5 in the north, we're just so thrilled about that," Rix said. "But we're trying to stay focused and keep working hard. We have to keep pushing because we know it's a long road. We can't get cocky. We just have to stay focused and keep putting in the work."
Sequoias hasn't played on the road since a Sept. 24th sweep at West Hills-Coalinga, and that presents an additional challenge to facing Taft, which is listed among the Best of the Rest in the state poll.
"We are going to have to have our heads here and just mentally prepare for that commute," Rix said. "We can't look past Taft. They are always a great team."
If the Giants defeat Taft, it will set up a showdown for first place against Fresno City at Porter Field House, where admission is $5.
The Rams swept visiting Sequoias 28-26, 25-14, 25-17 on Sept. 15.
"Friday is going to be a big one. Fresno is incredible," Rix said. "To go 28-26 in the first game, hanging with the No. 1 team in the state was encouraging. Then after that first game, we kind of shut down. But now that we've played them, we are hoping to play to our full potential (in the rematch.) It's going to be a battle."
The Giants have swept their past five opponents, including West Hills-Lemoore (25-7, 25-20, 25-13) and Columbia (25-10, 25-19, 25-17) last week.
Mia Gilcrest led Sequoias over the Golden Eagles (3-10, 2-4) on Oct. 8 with 13 kills, 11 digs, two aces and an assist. Hazel Martinez (Mission Oak) contributed six kills and two digs, Allyson Garcia (Dinuba) had four kills, 15 digs and an ace serve, and Morgan Hatton (Tulare Union) and Brenna Crabtree (San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno) added three kills each. Kia Campbell (Coalinga) and Abigail Billingsley (Redwood) fed the offense with 14 and 11 assists, respectively, while Andrea Jauregui (Redwood) delivered 10 digs.
Gilcrest and Hatton smashed 10 kills each to power Sequoias past the Claim Jumpers (1-11, 0-6) on Oct. 6. Gilcrest added seven digs.
The Giants also received seven kills and three digs from Garcia, five kills from Martinez, three kills from Jayda English (Lemoore) and two kills from Victoria Flores (Woodlake). Billingsley had 13 assists, Campbell had 12 assists and Jauregui added 26 digs.