Hillcrest girls volleyball team sweeps California in Division 5 playoff opener – Press Enterprise
RIVERSIDE — The Hillcrest girls volleyball team has many strengths. Unpredictability would not rank high on the list, however.
It’s no real secret that a majority of sets from the hands of Isabel Wold and Khloe Prescott are headed one direction: the left pin. And even though opposing teams are aware of this, outside hitters Sandie Souza and Kaitlyn Eugene still can put the ball away.
Souza and Eugene combined to record all but two of Hillcrest’s kills Wednesday evening as the Trojans cruised to a 25-8, 25-14, 25-17 sweep of California in a CIF Southern Section Division 5 first-round playoff match.
“They are such versatile players, and they have been working all season on expanding their range of the court,” Trojans coach Robyn Hubbard of her outside hitters. “They have good court awareness and vision and can hit all of the shots.”
Souza, a freshman, had 21 kills in her postseason debut. Eugene, a junior, tallied 13 kills and added four aces.
The duo combined for 70 of the team’s 84 attacking attempts (83.3%) Wednesday. That meant Souza and Eugene faced multiple blockers on most of their swings. Eugene and Souza still finished the match with .462 and .364 hitting percentages, respectively.
“We’re just looking for open spots on the court and making sure we’re always communicating with our setters,” Eugene said.
Hillcrest (20-6 overall) raced to a 12-4 lead in the first set, with Souza getting eight of those points via kills. When Souza went back to the service line, Eugene rotated into the front row and proceeded to put away three kills as the Trojans extended their lead to 17-7. Eugene later served up three of her aces to help Hillcrest close out the set.
Souza picked up seven kills in the second game, while Eugene added three more to her total. The workload between the two hitters was more balanced in the final set, with Eugene recording seven kills and Souza adding six more.
Souza is a highly-rated beach player in her age group, but her freshman season at Hillcrest marks the first time Souza has played primarily as an outside hitter. She typically sets the ball when playing for her indoor club team. Even though she has played in big matches on the beach and indoors, Souza admitted to having some early nerves Wednesday.
“It was my first playoff match ever, so that’s going to happen,” Souza said. “Once we won that first set and got that momentum going, the nerves started to go away… We kept things going and carried it all the way to the end.”
Hillcrest did have a bit of a hiccup in the final frame. The Trojans grabbed a 13-7 lead, but California (7-15) rallied and leveled the score at 16 and 17. Hillcrest answered back and won the last eight points, the final three coming on kills by Eugene.
“I think it was a good lesson for us. It shows you can never get too comfortable, no matter what the score is,” Hubbard said.
Hillcrest registered 12 aces in the match. Senior middle blocker Joanna Halias led the way with five, three in the final game.
The Trojans will be back in action Saturday evening for a second-round playoff match. Hillcrest will either host No. 4-seeded Northwood (25-5) or make the trip to Cypress to take on Oxford Academy (23-8).
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