Empire notebook: Volleyball playoffs scrambled due to Kincade fire

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Forced to forgo their spot in the North Coast Section volleyball playoffs because of massive evacuations from the Kincade fire, the Windsor Jags saw their 14-12 overall record and 4-6 in a stout North Bay League-Oak Division race end this Monday. It also meant the quiet retirement of longtime Jags coach Rich Schwarz.

Early Tuesday, the Division 2 bracket was updated, advancing No. 4 seed Redwood High to play the winner of the No. 5 Maria Carrillo against No. 12 Clayton Valley match. That game, by the way, was originally scheduled as a home game for the Pumas, but was moved to 5 p.m. Thursday at Petaluma High because of ongoing smoke, fire and power outages.

Which leads us to that game.

Just after Maria Carrillo’s match, the Trojans of Petaluma, the No. 5 seed, will host No. 12 Analy at 7 p.m., marking what feels like the first-ever NCS playoff doubleheader involving four different schools.

The Trojans are 17-5 overall and 8-4 in the Vine Valley Athletic League, a finish good enough for second place. The Tigers are 8-14 overall and went 2-8 in that rough NBL-Oak race. But 2-8 in the NBL-Oak might be deceptive and the Tigers are likely stronger than their on-paper resume suggests.

So if you love prep volleyball or, heck, you just want to get out of the house and get your mind off fire, smoke and evacuations, Petaluma High’s gym Thursday night might be the place to be.

But, then, nothing is certain these days. District officials on Tuesday afternoon announced the closure of all Petaluma City Schools campuses through Friday. How that will affect Thursday night volleyball was unclear at press time.

Cougars go undefeated

Rancho Cotate girls tennis made a clean sweep of North Bay League-Redwood Division this season, going 9-0 to take the league banner.

Led by junior No. 1 Julie Phan, who went 9-0 in league, the Cougars were shored up by three seniors: No. 2 Shelby Goebel, who went 6-2; No. 3 Jessica Teixeira, who went 4-3; and No. 4 Sarah Bedoka, who went 7-0. First doubles team Abigail Appleton and Emmy Avila, both seniors, went 6-0, No. 2 doubles players Jalissa Acker, a senior, and Tule Striplen, a sophomore, went 5-1, and the No. 3 doubles pair, freshman Brooke Castellanos and sophomore Isabella Hernandez, went 3-0.

Runners racing to the top

Cross Country Express has ranked St. Helena junior Harper McClain the top female runner in the North Coast Section, regardless of division, in their Oct. 23 rankings.

Maria Carrillo seniors Colton Swinth and Rory Smail, leaders on the top-ranked Pumas squad, came in at No. 4 and No. 5 on the boys list, individually. Among just Division 3 runners, Swinth ranks No. 1, Smail No. 2.

In a team ranking conducted by Prep Cal Track, the Pumas are picked as the second-best Division 3 team in the state, behind Agoura High. The Carrillo girls squad ranks fifth among Division 3 squads statewide.

Locals shine at Bronco Invite

Brian Schulz, a 2017 graduate of El Molino High School and now a junior for the U.C. Santa Barbara Gauchos, raced to a fifth-place finish at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational cross country meet Oct. 19. He covered 8K in 24:15.

At that same meet, the Santa Rosa Junior College men finished 10th in the Open Team results against squads including UC Santa Cruz and Loyola Marymount. Bailey Williams, a freshman out of Tech High, was the top finisher for the Bear Cubs, coming in 84th and covering the 8K course in 26:33.

The women raced to a 12th-place finish competing on a 6K course with the likes of UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and UC Santa Cruz. Evelin Ramirez, another El Molino grad, was the top finisher for the Bear Cubs. The sophomore came in at 84th place and finished in 23:54.

The Bear Cubs are slated to run at the Big 8 Championships at Modesto Junior College Friday.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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