By JOE NAIMAN
Ramona High School varsity girls volleyball Coach Connie Halfaker has previously praised her players for their ability to learn and adapt to situations, and she had reason to continue those commendations during the week of Oct. 4-8.
The Bulldogs began that week with losses in their first two league matches and in their first two pool play games of the Oct. 7-8 Scripps Ranch Tournament. Ramona won its final two pool play games Oct. 7, lost the Oct. 8 seeding match, and then won three consolation bracket matches before losing in the consolation finals.
“I could not be more proud of them,” Halfaker said.
Palomar League competition opened Oct. 4, and the matches included Poway’s 25-13, 25-22, 25-14 win at Ramona’s expense.
“We were very pleased with how we played, with our aggressiveness and mindset,” Halfaker said. “Poway’s team is always a challenge. The girls responded very well. They didn’t let anything bother them. They just went ahead and went at it.”
Ramona setter Mikayla Derochie had 18 assists. Nicole Darrough and Jenna Hickle each had 18 digs. Samantha Waelchli led the Bulldogs with five kills while Darrough and Julie Vorhes each had two serving aces.
Ramona’s Oct. 6 league match was a five-game home loss to Rancho Bernardo.
“It was a very frustrating loss,” Halfaker said. “We’re not playing as sharply as we have in the past.”
The first game was tied at 20 points apiece before the Broncos ended it with a 25-21 victory. Ramona came back from an early ten-point deficit to take a 25-20 triumph in game two, and the Bulldogs won the third game by a 26-24 margin.
“Game three was even most of the way,” Halfaker said. “Then all of a sudden we were missing serves.”
The Broncos took a 25-16 win in the fourth game. Ramona had a large lead in the fifth game and had match point with a 14-12 lead, but Rancho Bernardo won the next 4 points for a 16-14 victory and the match win.
Derochie had 35 assists, two aces and two blocks against the Broncos. Waelchli had 12 kills while Abby Roulier contributed 11 kills. Darrough and Hickle each had 18 digs.
Ramona’s Friday pool matches in the Scripps Ranch Tournament were played at Escondido High School. The Bulldogs began pool play with a 26-24, 25-20 loss to Helix and a 25-13, 25-20 defeat against Patrick Henry.
“We were starting to realize at that point a major shortcoming of our team,” Halfaker said.
Halfaker explained that the Bulldogs had trouble picking up other teams’ “odds and ends” which catch inexperienced opponents by surprise.
“We really did turn the corner on that,” she said.
Ramona’s third pool play match was a 25-18, 26-24 victory over Calexico. The Bulldogs closed pool play with a 25-22, 17-25, 15-11 win against Escondido.
The adjustment resulted in Darrough, who is the Bulldogs’ libero, obtaining more digs. Darrough had 49 digs in pool play.
“She just hit the ground running once we started making that adjustment,” Halfaker said.
Waelchli and Hickle each had 16 kills during pool play, Hickle led the team with four aces, Derochie provided 51 assists, and Waelchli and Kelsie Whitten each had two blocks.
Ramona’s 2-2 record in pool play tied for second place, although the point differential tiebreaker gave Ramona the fourth position for the following day and placed the Bulldogs into the consolation bracket.
Ramona’s Saturday matches were played at Mira Mesa High School and began with the seeding contest against Mount Carmel. The Sundevils won that match by 25-18 and 25-15 scores.
“We just really did not play well,” said Halfaker.
The Bulldogs fared better in the elimination matches.
“We worked together as a team,” said Halfaker. “The girls, very typical of them, decided to play hard.”
The first round of elimination play saw Ramona take a 25-13, 25-18 victory over Calexico.
“They were very aggressive and got after business,” Halfaker said.
In the quarterfinals Ramona once again faced a pool play opponent. This time the Bulldogs defeated Helix in three games.
The Bulldogs’ 25-23 win in game one was followed by the Highlanders’ 25-21 victory, but Ramona took a 15-7 triumph in the third game. Halfaker noted that by the third game the Bulldogs were recognizing Helix’s strategies.
“They were just determined to get better,” Halfaker said.
Ramona’s first semifinal game against Brawley was a 25-23 loss, but the Bulldogs then advanced to the finals with 25-21 and 15-10 victories.
“We picked up their pattern and made adjustments. We adjusted our defense,” Halfaker said.
Mount Carmel defeated Ramona in the consolation final, taking 26-24 and 25-21 victories to lessen Ramona’s cumulative two-game gap from 17 points in the seeding match to six points.
“We played much, much better,” Halfaker said. “We are looking forward to seeing them come to our place.”
Ramona, which hosts Westview today, hosts the Sundevils in a league game Tuesday. The loss to Mount Carmel in the consolation finals gave Ramona an 8-9 season record along with the Bulldogs’ 0-2 league mark.
Darrough had 75 digs during the second day of tournament play. Waelchli had five blocks while Whitten blocked four balls. Waelchli’s 24 kills led the team and Roulier added 21 kills. Derochie had 79 assists and seven aces.
Derochie and Roulier were also selected to the consolation bracket’s all-tournament team.