Ramona High School’s girls volleyball team took third place in the Palm Desert Tournament on Saturday.
The Bulldogs won five matches, lost one, and split one during the tournament. Two of those wins were against Valley League opponent Mount Carmel.
“We were very pleased with what the girls did,” said Coach Connie Halfaker. “We had a phenomenal tournament.”
Because the Palm Desert Tournament matches were not regulation length, they do not count in the season win-loss records, and the Bulldogs exited the tournament with an 0-2 official overall record.
Ramona’s week also included a three-game loss Sept. 15 at Rancho Buena Vista.
“The scores did not reflect the play,” Halfaker said of the loss to RBV.
Halfaker liked how her players responded to the loss to the Longhorns.
“We had a good look at where we had holes, what we needed to do, and we worked very hard in practice,” she said.
“The girls pretty much took it all in, made the adjustment,” Halfaker said. “It was borne out in the tournament.”
The 2009 tournament was Halfaker’s 11th Palm Desert Tournament with the Bulldogs but her first that included any other schools from San Diego County. Mount Carmel, Fallbrook and Mission Hills joined Ramona in Palm Desert.
Halfaker has noted that the tournament provides Ramona’s players with a bonding opportunity and has also mentioned that the lack of the tournament’s effect on Ramona’s overall record allows the Bulldogs to utilize the tournament for practice.
“We combined business with pleasure. We took care of business, and the kids had fun,” she said.
The 2009 Palm Desert Tournament consisted of ten teams which were divided into two five-team pools. Pool play matches consisted of two games to 21 points each with no requirement that a team win a game by two points. If the teams split the two games, no third game was played.
Ramona opened pool play against Mount Carmel and took 21-18 and 21-19 victories over the Sundevils. Ramona then defeated Indio in a 21-9, 21-18 match. Ramona split its two pool play games against Mission Hills with the Grizzlies taking a 21-16 triumph in the first contest and the Bulldogs salvaging a 21-20 victory in the second game. The Bulldogs closed pool play with 21-6 and 21-19 victories over Palm Desert.
The quarterfinals were originally slated to be best-of-three matches to 21 points, but as the Ramona-La Quinta bracket match was under way the lateness of the evening caused tournament organizers to make the other three first-round contests one-game matches to 25 points while retaining the best-of-three format for the match already in play. Ramona required two games to send the Blackhawks to the consolation bracket; the Bulldogs followed a 21-9 triumph with a 21-17 victory against La Quinta.
Three of the four semifinalists were San Diego Section teams, and Fallbrook played Ramona in one of the penultimate matches. The Warriors won the one-game match by a 25-23 score.
“We got behind early in the match,” Halfaker said.
“We squandered our opportunities to earn points,” Halfaker said. “We hit several serves out of bounds.”
Fallbrook eventually took a 23-20 lead before a Bulldog sideout once again narrowed the Warrior margin to two points. Fallbrook took a 24-21 lead with Ramona scoring the next two points.
“We pretty much were going point to point back and forth with them,” Halfaker said. “We got our game back and then they had to contend with us.”
Fallbrook, whose previous regular-season tournament was the 2008 Southern California Volleyball Invitational in which the Warriors took the championship, would defeat Jurupa Valley in the Palm Desert Tournament finals to give the Warriors their second consecutive tournament championship. As Ramona had done in 2007, Fallbrook won the Palm Desert Tournament championship before having any wins for the season. Ramona had an 0-2 record after winning the 2007 tournament, and as would be the case with Fallbrook two years later the Bulldogs’ match just prior to that tournament was a loss to Westview. As Fallbrook would do in 2009, Ramona finished second in its pool in 2007 before defeating the first-place pool team in the finals. (The Bulldogs prevailed over Troy High School of Fullerton, which did not participate in the 2009 tournament.)
“The kids that had been struggling made their corrections. They corrected their mechanics,” Halfaker said of the match against Fallbrook.
“They made the adjustments, so I could not have been happier.”
Jurupa Valley advanced to the finals with a semifinal triumph over Mount Carmel, so the Bulldogs and Sundevils played a one-game match for third place. Ramona won that battle by a 25-22 score.
“We played very well,” Halfaker said.
“Mount Carmel played well. It was a very, very good game,” Halfaker said.
Halfaker noted that Ramona played the game on a point-by-point and contact-by-contact basis.
“They played like every point was match point,” she said. “They played smart, which is what one of our goals was.”
Two Bulldog seniors, setter Bailey Kotas and outside hitter Jaycee Arthur, were named to the all-tournament team.
“It was definitely mission accomplished, and we’re on our way,” Halfaker said.