By Tukka Hess
Daily Planet Correspondent
Berkeley High responded to the first challenge of their volleyball league season last night, handily beating Piedmont three games to one at the Berkeley High gym last night.
After sharing third place in the San Ramon tournament, and enduring a tough scrimmage last weekend, the Yellow Jackets’ home opener was supposed to have the feel of a grudge match against a tough opponent. Instead, Berkeley took charge of games that were in doubt, and won 15-12, 15-13, 9-15, and 15-11.
Berkeley began the match on the offensive, jumping out to a 10-5 lead in the first game. In what was to become the motif of the evening, Piedmont roared back to tie the game 10-10. The Jackets responded with precision passing, pelting the Highlanders with an impressively distributed attack to rally to a 15-12 victory.
Piedmont quickly rebounded, taking a 10-6 lead in the second game. Berkeley focused on placing the ball in the hands of junior Desiree Gilliard-Young and sophomore Vanessa Williams. Pounding the Highlanders with an impressive aerial attack, Williams forced a Piedmont side-out with a vicious spike, and Gilliard-Young answered on the ensuing Piedmont serve-return with one her own, bringing Berkeley to within one point, 11-10. Senior OH Lezzi Akana followed their lead and tied the game at 12 with one of her team-high 11 kills. A Williams block shut the door on Piedmont, winning the game 15-13.
Commenting on the effort of his team, Berkeley coach Justin Carraway said, "After the tournament, I thought we needed to do some better work with ball control. We certainly have to pass better so that we can take advantage of the hitters that we have. I thought the first two games we did a pretty good job of that."
The match was marred by early difficulty at the scorer’s table. During the third game, with the scoreboard ostensibly showing a Berkeley 6-5 lead, one Piedmont fan was ejected from the stands after voicing with displeasure with the scoreboard reversals.
Down 9-7 and struggling to keep within range of the Yellow Jackets, Piedmont called a timeout to collect themselves. The effort evidently worked, as the Highlanders rattled off 8 unanswered points to take their only game by a score of 15-9.
Embarrassed by their collapse, Berkeley savaged Piedmont in the fourth game, bursting out to a 13-1 lead. With defeat imminent, slowly battled to within two points of the Yellow Jackets, 13-11.
Reflecting on their fourth game, Berkley junior DS Ferron Salniker noted, "In the fourth game we’re up 13-2, and then lose our mental focus. We kind of got tentative and weren’t prepared to finish them off. Something that we really need to work on is closing teams out."
Her teammate Williams did just that, snapping the Yellow Jackets out of their doldrums with yet another vicious spike to force a Piedmont sideout. On the subsequent play she drove home her tenth kill of the evening, bringing the score to 14-11.
After the match Carraway remarked, "Vanessa got some key kills when we needed them. She got the side-out at 13 to get us where we could serve, that was huge for us. She is only a sophomore, so I expect big things to come later on."
Gilliard-Young finished the Highlander off with her match-leading tenth block, giving the Yellow Jackets a 15-11 fourth game victory.
Reflecting on the match, Carraway struck a note of surprise, commenting that "We scrimmaged them on Friday, and they looked much more solid than we did. I knew we would have to work really hard on terminating the ball and try to keep the pressure on them on service."
Williams, wasn’t quite as shocked, saying: "I think we all expected the game to go pretty well. We played Piedmont before in a scrimmage and we although we didn’t do too hot; we had a couple of practices where everything seemed to be going well. We knew we were going to come out and win."
Berkeley improved its overall record to 2-1. The Yellow Jackets will host Clayton Valley tonight at 6 p.m.
The freshman team plays at 3:45 and the junior varsity squares off at 5 p.m.