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El Diamante captures first Central Section title in girls volleyball

Top-seeded Miners sweep No. 2 Lemoore

12:00 AM, Nov. 16, 2012 EST

El Diamante's Rachael Schaefer (9) celebrates after firing down a kill during Thursday's Central Section Divison II title match against Lemoore at El Diamante. / Steve R. Fujimoto

There is a banner inside the El Diamante High School gymnasium that depicts all of the school's Central Section championship teams.

The El Diamante girls volleyball team entered this season with strong feelings that there was a conspicuous absence on that banner that needed to be dealt with during their 2012 campaign.

"We wanted to be the first [volleyball team] to be up there," El Diamante junior outside hitter Rachael Schaefer said.

Well, it's time to take El Diamante's Central Section title banner down to make a noteworthy alteration: "2012 Girls Volleyball".

In a fashion that left no question to their Division II supremacy, the El Diamante Miners captured their first Central Section girls volleyball championship with a sweep of the Lemoore Tigers Thursday night at El Diamante.

The top-seeded Miners swept No. 2 Lemoore 25-18, 25-17, 25-18.

"This is huge. This was our No. 1 goal," Schaefer said.

It was also the No. 1 goal of El Diamante coach Leslie Sorensen, who left Redwood after a very successful 10-year tenure with the Rangers to become the Miners' first varsity head coach.

"We've always thought about getting to this point," Sorensen said. "This was our third time [in the finals], and we got it done this time.

"Our mission was to win league, but we thought this was a realistic goal."

There were convincing hints throughout September and the first half of October that El Diamante was the clear favorite to win the Division II championship.

The Miners were racking up impressive wins on a regular basis, and they only had two overall losses entering the final rotation of the West Yosemite League schedule.

But some clouds of doubt were created when Lemoore knocked off the Miners in five sets that prohibited El Diamante from claiming the outright WYL title with a perfect league record.

The clouds of doubt grew darker when Golden West took El Diamante to five sets in the regular-season finale, and then No. 5 Independence took a 2-1 sets lead in Tuesday's semifinals before the Miners rallied to win in five.

Conventional wisdom after the first 10 minutes of Thursday's title match: What clouds of doubt?

Thursday's contest was devoid of any ominous signs -- it was all El Diamante in every facet of the game.

The outside hitting of Schaefer and Katelyn Anderson proved to be instrumental in each set.

Anderson had four kills over an 11-point stretch midway in the first set that allowed the Miners to extend a 10-8 lead into a 17-12 advantage.

Schaefer finished off the Tigers in the first set with three kills over the Miners' final eight points.

"We are able to get the passing going early and that got the offense working really well," Schaefer said.

If stopping Anderson and Schaefer from the outside hitter position wasn't enough to contend with, the Tigers couldn't do much to stop Lauren Torres in the early goings of the second set.

Torres had three kills over the first nine points as El Diamante built a 6-3 lead. Lemoore scored to make it 6-4, but it would never cut into the Miners' lead any further.

El Diamante obtained a commanding 15-7 lead on Jamie Rubles' kill from the opposite-hitter post. The lead never dipped below four points from that point en route to El Diamante going up 2-0.

Not too many anxious moments in the third set either, as Lemoore never held the lead in the final set.

The only time where it appeared that the Tigers could muster up something to stop El Diamante's drive for a sweep was quickly deflated with several critical hitting errors.

Down 14-7 in the third set, Lemoore was able to slash the Miners' lead to 16-15.

The threat was squelched with El Diamante scoring four straight points, two of those from Tiger hitting miscues. Lemoore would have a couple of more hitting errors combined with a couple of kills from Anderson that allowed the Miners to complete the sweep -- the title-winning point was an appropriate one with Anderson firing down her 12th kill.

Schaefer led El Diamatne with 13 kills. Anderson had 12 kills. Torres posted five kills to go with three blocks. Madison Ekizian recorded 31 assists.

El Diamante did a commendable job avoiding significant bouts of hitting and/or receiving errors.

Lemoore wasn't so fortunate. The Tigers had at least seven errors in each of the three sets.

El Diamante ( 26-3) will advance to the Southern California regional tournament. The Miners are expected to receive a home match on Monday or Tuesday. Seedings will be announced Sunday.




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