Empire sports roundup: Santa Rosa volleyball stays atop league

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The Santa Rosa High School volleyball team cemented its status as the top team in the North Bay League-Oak Division with a thrilling five-set, come-from-behind win against second-place Montgomery on Thursday night.

The Panthers rebounded from two close set losses to edge the Vikings in the third and fourth and pull away in the fifth 22-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-10.

The close third-set win by Santa Rosa (15-4, 7-1 NBL-Oak) was indicative of the turnaround that was underway, according to coach Rob Beal.

“We started playing solid defense and making good passes to be able to run our offense,” he said. “Early on, we were on the defensive and not having as many offensive opportunities.”

Sophia Oden was the anchor in the middle, leading the Panthers with 51 assists and 11 digs. Evi Burke added 23 kills and 6 digs, Brooke Essner had 20 kills, 6 digs and 1 ace, Isa Ponce had 11 kills and 15 digs and Jenna Kim contributed 24 digs and 2 aces.

Montgomery (17-14, 5-3) couldn’t close the match after winning the first two nail-biting sets, in a contest coach Becky Stavropoulos said was a dogfight and a far cry from the team’s straight-set loss to the Panthers in late September.

“After the first two sets, we just had some instances where we didn’t come out with the same urgency as we had in sets 1 and 2,” she said.

Kailey McKinnon had 20 kills for the Vikings. Laney O’Neal had 35 assists and 22 digs, Ivy Lea had 36 digs, Lana Rodman notched 22 digs and Hannah White tallied 13 kills and 26 digs.

Montgomery hosts Analy Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. while the Panthers play at Maria Carrillo Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Middletown 3, Clear Lake 2

At Middletown, the Mustangs battled past Clear Lake to take sole possession of second place in the North Coast League I standings behind Kelseyville 25-23, 25-18, 16-25, 20-25, 15-10.

Taylor Griffin led Middletown (16-13, 8-4 NCL I) with 19 kills, 1 ace and 4 blocks in a performance coach Vanessa Davis said was an all-time showing. Abbey Brown contributed 8 kills, 2 aces and 2 blocks, while Abi Hibner notched 5 kills and 4 blocks.

Girls golf

Newman 287, Healdsburg 289

At the Fountaingrove Country Club, the Cardinals used a one-over par day from Abby Leighton to edge the ’Hounds in the North Bay League-Redwood Division finale. Tiffany Vanvranken led the way for Healdsburg with a 49 on the par 36 course.

The Cardinals play at Montgomery on Saturday. If Cardinal Newman wins, Healdsburg and Newman will be 9-1 and share the NBL-Redwood title.

Both teams will play in the NBL-Redwood tournament that starts Monday.

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