By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s girls volleyball team won its season opener Sept. 13 before finishing second in the Sept. 17 Palm Desert Tournament.
Because the Palm Desert Tournament games were played to 21 points rather than to the regulation 25 points, the results do not count in season records and Ramona concluded the tournament with a 1-0 mark but won four of six tournament matches.
“It was a great day,” Coach Connie Halfaker said of the tournament.
Ramona swept San Marcos in three games in the Knights’ gym, taking victories with scores of 25-21, 26-24, and 25-23.
“It was ebb and flow kind of on our part,” Halfaker said. “I think it was first-game jitters.”
During the second game, the Bulldogs trailed late before coming back for the overscore win.
“Every time they got behind, they figured it out enough,” Halfaker said. “They never panicked or anything. They were just a little hesitant. We did a really good job of keeping it together, not playing well and still keeping it together.
Samantha Waelchli led the Bulldogs with nine kills and also paced the team with 12 digs. Alexis Sharpe had two blocks and two aces to lead the Bulldogs in both categories, and setter Mikayla Derochie had 18 assists.
The performance against San Marcos caused Halfaker and Assistant Coach Jeff Klauda to adjust defensive positioning during the next two days of practice.
“The kids feel more comfortable in those roles they’re in now,” Halfaker said.
Halfaker traditionally uses the Palm Desert Tournament for team bonding as well as early-season tournament experience, and this year she assisted Desert Christian Academy Coach Dana Graham in organizing the tournament, which had been canceled during the first week of Ramona’s practice before Halfaker and Graham salvaged the tournament.
“This weekend is so valuable to us,” Halfaker said. “I just really wanted to see if anybody else could put it together to make something happen.”
Palm Desert High School historically has hosted the tournament, but school construction put this year’s tournament in jeopardy before Halfaker and Graham recruited three other teams and Graham obtained use of the Desert Christian gym in Bermuda Dunes, which is just east of Palm Desert.
The five teams began the tournament with round-robin pool play.
“The competition was good. We all challenged each other,” Halfaker said. “As the day went on, everybody progressed, so it was really nice for everybody.”
Halfaker judged her own team’s progress from the San Marcos match to the practice sessions to the tournament.
“I was just thrilled with the progress and change,” she said. “I was very, very pleased with the skill application.”
Ramona won three of four pool play matches and six of the eight games.
“We stepped in and started off strong and just kept on rolling,” Halfaker said.
The Bulldogs’ first match