The White Pine girls volleyball team was missing starting senior middle blocker Debra Kingston heading into the Division III Southern League semifinals.
Fortunately for the Bobcats, senior outside hitter Ashlyn Huntington was still in the starting lineup.
Huntington had 24 kills and three aces to lead the Bobcats to a 25-21, 25-11, 24-26, 25-21 victory over The Meadows to claim the Southern League title Saturday at Agassi Prep. Both teams qualify for the state tournament, which begins Friday at Coronado.
“(Ashlyn) is a phenomenal athlete,” White Pine coach Kenna Almberg said. “She has been on the varsity as a freshman and has never sat the bench in four years. A lot of times a kid like that will peak and will dwindle around a little bit, but she has improved this year more than any year. So, it’s pretty awesome for her to be able to do that.”
After the Bobcats (28-1) jumped out to a two-set lead, the Mustangs (18-11) finally seemed to shake the jitters, eventually taking a 24-22 lead in the third set. Huntington, who stepped up with big plays to stop any momentum the Mustangs might have found throughout the match, rallied her team to tie the score at 24-24.
However, The Meadows broke her serve and won the set, 26-24.
“I think The Meadows started off playing a little scared and timid, and they just kind of came alive that third game, which was great,” Almberg said. “We needed a tough one. And so they just had to play smarter. They started blocking us, so we had to do some different things and set some different hitters.”
The Bobcats regained the momentum they found late in the third set to easily take the fourth set, 25-21. A Huntington kill ended the match.
“It’s sweet. It is definitely exciting to be going to state,” said Huntington, who refused to take credit for her dominating performance. “We are all pretty even. It’s nice that we can go to anybody to get us out of (those situations).”
Mikalyn Almberg had three aces and 22 blocks, Emily Bischoff had nine kills, and Mikinley Prengel had six blocks for the Bobcats. Britney Kingston and Hall each had two blocks.
Alexi Corrigan had nine kills and two blocks, and Dina Kosyagin had seven blocks to lead the Mustangs.
Emily Ebel had 11 assists and had seven digs, Dani Mason had 12 digs and six kills, Anna Dorn had 21 digs, and Eden Miller dished out 17 assists for The Meadows.
White Pine 3, Lincoln County 0 — Huntington had nine kills and 15 blocks to lead the Bobcats past the Lynx, 25-14, 25-12, 25-18 in the semifinals.
Bischoff had 11 kills, Britney Kingston had five kills and two blocks, and Prengel added 21 assists, three aces and two blocks for White Pine.
The Meadows 3, Calvary Chapel 1 — Kosyagin had 16 kills and six blocks to lead the Mustangs past the Lions, 28-26, 25-14, 18-25, 25-21 in the other semifinal.
Dani Mason added eight kills and 16 digs, and Ebel had 21 assists and 10 digs for The Meadows, which got 12 digs from Dorn.