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Renegades shake off jittery first set for playoff win over Fullerton

Watching the first set of Bakersfield College's first-round women's volleyball playoff match, it would've been easy to get the teams' seedings confused. No. 17 Fullerton College, with one playoff win under its belt already, came out firing, while the top-seeded Renegades made unforced errors and struggled offensively.

But aided by the offensive production of freshman outside hitter Meagan Williams and a revitalized defense at the net, BC found its groove in the second set, dominated the third and held on in the fourth to knock out the upstart Hornets, 3-1 (18-25, 25-14, 25-15, 25-20).

The Renegades began the game by losing the first set of a home match for the first time since Aug. 28. BC's passing looked off early, with a pair of errors on passes over the net to Fullerton contributing two points to the Hornets' opening 6-0 run. This also contributed to a lack of good attacking looks, which meant BC managed just six total kills in the first set. Fullerton hitter McKenna Mokry, meanwhile, had five kills on her own, including two as the Hornets extended their lead to 10-4.

The underdog Hornets held a lead of at least four points for the remainder of the set, dropping a couple aces in the middle of BC's defense down the stretch and ultimately winning, 25-18.

The Renegades shook off the first-set jitters almost immediately, looking much more fluid on offense to set up some nice shots from Meagan Williams, one of which capped a 7-1 run that gave BC a 12-4 lead. Fullerton regained some of its first-set mojo with a trio of well-placed tips from Alexa Hauser, who was lethal from the middle blocker spot, and the Hornets got as close as 18-14. But Mokry was much quieter hitting from the left side, and BC's defense tightened up at the net for a 7-0 run featuring three blocks to claim the set 25-14.

The Renegades continued that breakneck pace into the third set with another string of seven points in a row that featured five consecutive kills from Williams. The lead got as high as 10 before Fullerton responded again, narrowing the gap to 14-11 thanks to an array of attack and defensive errors from BC, pushing through a timeout from Renegades coach Carl Ferreira. But the Hornets couldn't account for a resurgent Williams, who had four additional kills down the stretch. Tia Jules capped the set at 25-15 with a hard-hit spike right into the middle of Fullerton's defense.

With BC looking at a chance to clinch the match, the Hornets put up another strong showing, with Hannah Wilmes in particular finding space in the Renegades' defense. The outside hitter from Colorado posted three kills early in the set to help keep the Hornets close. The Renegades tightened up at the net briefly to get blocks from Kami Marion and Aly Dees to go up 19-14. But with the Hornets fighting for their lives, Wilmes dropped in three more spikes to hold the deficit at 22-19.

However, a pair of Mokry's attacks drifted out of bounds, as did Nya Veikoso's game-ending serve, to clinch the win for BC at 25-20.

The Renegades still haven't lost a home game in four years. They will be tested again when they host either No. 8 Mt. San Antonio or No. 9 Orange Coast on Saturday night at the Gil Bishop Sports Center.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.