The Bakersfield College volleyball team punched its ticket to the CCCAA State Championship Tournament with a dramatic five-set victory (25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 16-14) over San Diego Mesa College at the Gil Bishop Sports Center on Saturday night.
The second-seeded Renegades rallied from an 8-3 deficit to win the final set and earn a spot in the state championship tournament for the first time since 2009.
The event to be held Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at Solano College, will feature four qualifiers from Southern California and four from Northern California.
All-American setter Sarah Armendariz had 57 assists and six digs to help carry the Renegades past a determined San Diego Mesa squad.
"It's huge," Armendariz said of the win. "It's what we've been working for all season. Now we're going to get there (the state tournament) and we're going to have to play our hearts out. Play together and go all the way to the championship, hopefully."
BC (25-1) won the first two sets and appeared to be on its way to a quick victory after jumping out to 6-1 lead in the third set.
However, the tenth-seeded Olympians (17-13) battled back behind the strong play of outside hitters Raven Casas and Zoe Tippetts to draw things even at two games apiece.
Trailing 8-3 in the fifth set BC went on a 6-1 run spurred by three kills by Penelope Zepeda to pull even.
From there the two teams battled back and forth, tying the score five times, before a block by Armendariz and a kill by Zepeda finally clinched the match.
"It was a grind moment," Armendariz said of being down 8-3 in the fifth set. "You know that you're down and you know you want that win. You know you want it. It's whoever is going to play the toughest."
Zepeda finished with 20 kills and nine digs as BC improved to 13-0 at home and extended its overall winning streak to 19 matches.
Lanie Camarillo, who came into the match ranked No. 10 in the state in kills per set had 20 kills and seven digs.
The tall, lanky outside hitter closed out each of the first two sets with kills.
BC coach Carl Ferreira was impressed with the way his team handled the adversity of losing the third and fourth games.
"We stayed with it," Ferreira said. "It's not about winning easy. We just always try to be two points better all the time. They deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there...We never panicked...Real impressive performance, especially in the biggest moments."
Casas had a match-high 28 kills and Rachel Wilkocz notched 62 assists for the Olympians, who came up short in trying to end BC's dream season.
"Our bond and our relationships with each other is unreal," Armendariz said. "I've never felt anything like it with a team before. It's just crazy how much it works."