There isn't a big secret to the success of the Redwood volleyball team if you ask junior captain Ashley Cervantes.
"Communication, focus and playing hard," Cervantes said.
The No. 2-seeded Rangers did all three of those things as they defeated No. 3 Ridgeview 25-9, 24-26, 25-17, 25-20 in the Central Section Division III semifinals on Tuesday night at the Redwood gym.
And now Redwood will be playing for its first Central Section championship since 2006.
The Rangers knew they wouldn't be leaving Visalia for the championship match, but with No. 4 Hoover upsetting No. 1 Central Valley Christian, the Rangers will be playing for a Valley title on their home court at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"I knew we would do well," first-year coach Janeece Thompson said. "I have a talented group of girls, but I didn't imagine Valley and hosting it at that."
The Rangers lost back-to-back matches on Oct. 17 and Oct. 22 but have won four straight to reach the championship match. They closed out the regular season with wins over crosstown rivals Golden West and Mt. Whitney, defeated Highland in the quarterfinals of the Division III playoffs and eliminated a very tough Ridgeview team in the semifinals.
The Rangers knew they had the talent on the team to make a run toward a championship game, but it wasn't always easy on them.
"At the beginning we were struggling," Cervantes said. "But toward the end we started playing better and better and we thought we could get here."
Cervantes was all over the court for the Rangers, finishing with 21 digs, 12 kills and four aces.
She received plenty of support from her younger sister Becky Cervantes, who finished with 16 kills, 13 digs and two aces.
Ciara Wong added 45 assists and 10 digs, Chandler McKean finished with 14 kills and seven blocks and Kimbra Juarez chipped in with 13 digs and three aces.
Redwood looked like it was on its way to an easy win after dominating the first set 25-9. It was up 18-7 in the second set, but Ridgeview went on an 11-2 run to get back into the match. The Wolf Pack ended up winning the second set 26-24.
Redwood won the third set 25-17 and appeared to get momentum back on its side, but found itself in big hole in the fourth set. Ridgeview led 14-6 before Redwood went on a 14-3 run to take control of the set and the match.
"We came out really really strong, it was one of the best we've ever played in the first game," Thompson said. "Then we lost momentum. Volleyball is about mental focus and keeping that momentum. We lost it in the second game, but we got it back in the third and then in the fourth."
While it was an up-and-down match for Redwood, Thompson felt her team would pull through. It was just a matter of keeping their confidence, she said.
"These girls have proven they can do anything," Thompson said. "As soon as the momentum turned, we took full advantage of it."
The Rangers seemed like a confident bunch, especially after finding out they would be playing for a Valley title on their home court.
"We're excited about going into the championship," Thompson said. "We'll see what happens, but I have a lot of faith in these girls."