Posted by Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:
Knocking on the door again, Sonoma State’s volleyball team wants to make more of their opportunity in the NCAA tournament after opening round losses the past two years.
If the Seawolves are successful, opening with UC San Diego today at Cal State San Bernardino, much credit will go to a quartet of former Sonoma County prep standouts. Outside hitters Ally Sather – Maria Carrillo – and Keala Peterson – Analy – lead the scoring. Setter-outside hitter Lindsay Lytle – Analy – and setter Hayley Ross – Petaluma – are offensive catalysts.
“It’s awesome,” Sather said. “We’ve gotten the best lineup we’ve had this year. We have experience that we lacked earlier in the season.”
Playing its best volleyball in winning seven of nine to close the regular season, Sonoma State is confident and welcomes the underdog role as the fifth seed in the eight team tournament.
“We don’t have any pressure on us. We know what’s going on,” Sather said.
San Bernardino is the top seed and host of the West Regional after winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association for the eighth time in ten years. The Coyotes, boasting a 43-match home winning streak, get eighth-seeded BYU-Hawaii, from the Pacific West Conference, to open play in the Sonoma State bracket.
Seattle Pacific, earning the number two seed after winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, faces Cal State Los Angeles, a CCAA team and seventh seed. Western Washington, also from the GNAC, is number three and takes on conference rival and sixth-seeded Alaska Anchorage.
The semifinals are Friday and the finals Saturday with the champion of the west region moving on to the Elite Eight in Louisville, KY., on Dec. 2-4, hosted by Bellarmine University.
Making their fourth NCAA tournament appearance overall, Sonoma State has yet to win a match. The Seawolves came closest a year ago and want to turn around their fortunes at Coussoulis Arena, also the site of last year’s West Regional.
But the Seawolves must defeat a UC San Diego squad that owns two wins over the Seawolves this season, including a 3-2 victory in Rohnert Park.
Lately the Seawolves have been winning with consistently strong offensive play. That success starts on with defensive specialist Taylor Krenwinkel, second in the conference in digs per set and on pace to set the Sonoma State career record. By controlling the ball well, she gives passers and hitter’s confidence to make plays.
“Having that consistency has really helped our offense. We can have more options depending on the pass. So we have more choices to set,” Sather said.
Also on a record setting pace is Sather. Third in the conference in kills, Sather already is eighth in school history.
Ross is third in the conference for service aces. Peterson is fifth for scoring average.
Sonoma State finished the regular season 17-9 and fourth place in the CCAA.
Facing a conference rival on a familiar court, Sonoma State wants to win and advance.
“It’s really who isn’t afraid of anything,” Sather said. “We’re so fired up because it’s something that’s so close to our grasp.”