After a dominating first game, the Ridgeview High volleyball team looked like it was on its way to a quick and easy victory over visiting Golden Valley on Thursday night.
Instead, the match proved to be quite difficult for the Wolf Pack, which narrowly outlasted the Bulldogs, 25-16, 22-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-7, in a showdown between South Yosemite League rivals.
Fighting to stay alive after Golden Valley won two straight games, Ridgeview took control of the fourth game with a late 8-0 run that was fueled by a pair of kills by Jacquelyn Johnson.
The Wolf Pack (15-5, 2-0 SYL) then dominated the final game, pulling out to a 9-4 lead en route to beating the defending SYL champion.
"It was quite a match," Ridgeview coach Ernie Perez-Leon said. "We started off strong. Took them to an 11-4 lead and then kind of got a little complacent. I think Golden Valley brought a lot of heart. They brought a lot of game that we, I think, underestimated.
"In the end we found our heart. We found our way back to our goals."
Johnson, a junior outside hitter, led the Wolf Pack with 20 kills. Leslie Rosales added 12 kills, 15 digs, three aces, and two blocks for Ridgeview.
"We pushed hard, persevered and got the win, Johnson said. "We fell apart in the beginning, but the main thing is we came together as a team at the end."
Geanaee Browden paced Golden Valley, with nine kills. Valentina Rodriguez chipped in 24 digs and four aces for the Bulldogs, who won the second and third games playing strong defense and forcing Ridgeview to make multiple kill attempts on almost every rally.
The Wolf Pack hurt itself in the two games it lost, committing five serving errors during each.
Ridgeview regained its composure for the start of the fourth game as it jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Golden Valley (5-8, 1-1 SYL) eventually knotted things up 10-10 on Mariah Cheatham's hard spike through the teeth of the Ridgeview defense.
But up 15-14, the Wolf Pack scored the next eight points to all but ensure a fifth game.
"It was a hard-fought (match)," Golden Valley coach Jill Halling said. "Ridgeview was just banging the ball. I can't take anything away from them. We're young. I have a whole new team. I graduated 11 seniors last year. I have a whole new mix. All new personalities and we're just working it out. We'll get there."
Perez-Leon thought Ridgeview's fast start may have caused it to underestimate Golden Valley.
"We kind of lost our focus in the middle but got back on track late in the match and found our way back to taking care of the little things," Perez-Leon said. "We began playing together as a team. We've been working on all these things in the end I think they brought it for the last game."
Ridgeview turned things around after coming together for a team huddle during a fourth-game timeout.
"I have to give credit to the girls for that," Perez-Leon said. "In the timeout they just kind of buckled down. They just laid it out there and said 'we got to get this. We want this. We know we're capable. We need to get after it and get it.'
"Game 5 they came out and were on a mission. Nothing was going to get in they're way."