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Wildcats win in five-game thriller

November 09, 2001|By ROBERT FULTON, Special to this newspaper

LA JOLLA — If the Brawley Union High School volleyball team's victory over La Jolla High in the San Diego CIF Section Division III quarterfinals is any indication of how the rest of the postseason is going to be, it is sure to be one wild ride.

The Wildcats pulled out a thrilling victory, winning 7-15, 15-7, 15-9, 13-15, 15-13.

"We went to an opposing team's gym, traveled two and a half hours, all the things that come into play, and we did it," said Brawley head coach Phil Finnell.

In the fifth and deciding game, Brawley jumped ahead 6-2. The Vikings rallied to take a 12-11 lead. That is when the Wildcat's Trisha Fleming turned it on.

Fleming made five kills late in the game to give Brawley a 14-13 advantage. Then Morgan Smith delivered the match-winning service point at 15-13.

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"She (Fleming) was struggling all match," Finnell said. "She finally pulled it together and starting killing the ball. She showed a lot of courage today."

Smith stepped it up often when it counted.

"She pulled through in the clutch," Finnell said.

Brawley's Leighan Sudduth made her presence felt time and time again with timely kills (26 in all) and leadership.

"She is a phenomenal player," Finnell said. "Today she showed why she is the captain."

The match started promisingly for Brawley as it opened with a 6-2 lead in the first game.

La Jolla finally got into the match and went on a 13-1 run to take the game 15-7.

The second game stated with the Wildcats jumping ahead again, this time 8-2, but La Jolla didn't have much of an answer, and Brawley nabbed a 15-7 victory.

The third set was all Brawley, which started with a 10-1 advantage. The Vikings rallied back, but the Wildcats held on for the 15-9 win.

"It's a matter of our inexperience," said La Jolla coach Dave Jones. "We weren't serving consistently. When the pressure is on, we sometimes struggle a little bit with the focus of the team."

The fourth set looked like a blowout as La Jolla jumped to a 14-4 advantage. Brawley came back to narrowly lose 15-13.

"Tonight they showed more fight than they have shown all year," Finnell said of his team. "They faced a lot of adversity and they pulled through. It was awesome."

The Wildcats had some lapses they will have to avoid to go deep into the playoffs.

"I think we should have done it in three games, but we got the ‘W'," Finnell said. "The flow of the game, the momentum and the intensity on the court, you see it on both sides. It's a wave. Sometimes you're riding the wave and sometimes you're swimming against the current. A lot of the times we were struggling to get our composure."

The Wildcats, who improved to 27-5, face University of San Diego High School in the Division III semifinals at a neutral site to be announced.

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