A volleyball team can do all the little things correctly — defend, serve, dig, block — but it matters little if a team can’t end points.
That, in a nutshell, was the difference in San Mateo’s three-game loss to visiting Castilleja Thursday evening. The Bearcats did everything else right, but just could not put balls away in a 25-23, 25-14, 25-17 loss to the Gators.
“We couldn’t terminate (points),” said San Mateo coach Chris Tigno. “We’re young and our best hitter from last year transferred out. We’re not very tall this year.”
San Mateo (1-1) was even more shorthanded without the services of outside hitter Amanda Crosetti, who twisted an ankle last week.
“When [Crosetti is] out, it causes us to have change around our system,” Tigno said.
The way Castilleja was putting balls down, it’s questionable how much difference Crosetti would have made. The Gators finished with 40 kills for the match — double the Bearcats’ output of 20.
Castilleja’s Jessice Norum led all hitters with 16 kills. She also added a pair of service aces. Madeline Johnson, just a sophomore, added 10 kills for the Gators, while Katya Scocimara chipped in with seven kills.
San Mateo was paced by middle blocker Bella Mauricio, who finished with eight kills.
The Bearcats did OK defensively, with Mauricio finishing with a team-high 17 digs, forcing the Gators to earn every point. But San Mateo’s inability to end points was its undoing.
Game 1 was the closest of the three. Castilleja jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead, but a Gators’ setting error tied the game at 5 and a kill from San Mateo’s Katrina Andersen put the Bearcats up 6-5.
There were seven ties in the first game, the last coming at 19, before the Gators put the game away with a flurry of points down the stretch. Back-to-back kills and an ace gave the Gators game point, 24-21, but the Bearcats did not go quietly. They got kills from Morgan Ho and Paloma Monesi to close to 24-23, but a Bearcats violation gave the game to the Gators.
In Game 2, San Mateo got off to the quick start, taking a 3-0 lead on a pair of Mauricio kills and a Castilleja hitting error, but the Gators went on to tie the game at 5. A San Mateo hitting error jumpstarted a Castilleja 6-0 run, turning a 5-4 Gators deficit into a 10-5 advantage. The Gators then slowly, but surely, pulled away for a 25-14 win.
Game 3 saw the Bearcats take a 3-0 lead early again, but the Gators, again, came back to tie the game at 5. It appeared San Mateo might have finally found an offensive groove as the Bearcats went on a 6-0 spurt to take a 12-6 lead. The Gators, however, answered with a 5-0 run of its own to cut their deficit to 12-11.
A serve into the net only briefly slowed the Gators’ roll but, down 13-11, Castilleja won six of the next eight points to take a 17-15 lead. The Gators finished the game by winning eight of the next nine points to close out the match.
“We have a lot of young players who are talented,” Tigno said. “They just need a little seasoning.”