The Berkeley High girls’ volleyball team had their season rudely ended on Tuesday night, falling in straight games, 15-11, 15-9, 15-5, to the San Benito (Hollister) Haybalers in the first round of the CIF state tournament.
San Benito, the fourth-seeded team in the Northern California section, won by dominating the net despite the presence of Berkeley’s 6-foot-5 middle blocker Desiree Guilliard-Young. Outside hitter Jacky Denton led the Haybalers with 13 kills and Kim Dabo pitched in with 11 kills and two blocks.
Guilliard-Young, on the other hand, only had 12 attempts all night as her teammates had trouble setting her up. The Baylor-bound senior finished with 3 kills and 3 blocks, far below her usual totals. She was even outpointed by San Benito middle blocker Lindsey Davis. Davis, who isn’t even a starter, had 4 kills and 4 blocks, including two on Guilliard-Young spikes.
“There’s no possible way for us to win when that happens,” Berkeley coach Justin Caraway said of his star’s quiet match.
San Benito coach Larry Nabzeska said his strategy was to avoid Guilliard-Young as much as possible, which included making it hard for Berkeley to get easy passes.
“We heard about the big girl, and we wanted to stay away from her,” Nabzeska said. “We wanted to take the middle away from them by serving as hard as we could.”
Nabzeska had the luxury of using three jump-servers to make Berkeley’s return game difficult. Dabo and Denton, two of the jump-servers, combined for just four aces, but their tricky serves kept the ’Jackets off-balance all night.
“We just looked tentative and scared out there,” Caraway said. “I can only say ‘get your butt down and get under the ball’ so many times.”
Berkeley’s poor passing made it a rough night for setter Danielle Larue, who found herself running for the ball rather than setting it for much of the match. As a result, the ’Jackets’ big hitters, outsides Vanessa Williams and Amalia Jarvis along with Guilliard-Young, had just 12 kills combined.
The first game of the match was tied 4-4 when the Haybalers started to dominate the net. Guilliard-Young was blocked twice, first by Dabo, then by Davis, and followed that up with a hitting error that gave San Benito a 6-4 lead.
“I didn’t think we’d be able to block (Guilliard-Young), but we did,” said Nabzeska, whose team had 12 kills blocks in the match.
Guilliard-Young redeemed herself with a block to get serve back, but Dabo answered with a six-point service streak, including two aces and two kills by Denton, to make the score 12-4. Berkeley fought back to 12-9, but were too far behind to make up the entire deficit.
The pivotal game of the match was the second. The ’Jackets took a 6-3 lead and stayed with San Benito to 9-9, but Dabo had three kills late in the game, including the final point on which her spike clipped the net and fell between three Berkeley defenders.
Berkeley again took a quick lead in the final game and had a tie at 5-5, but then San Benito simply overpowered the ’Jackets for the rest of the match. Denton served out the rest of the match, starting with two aces. The next four points were painful for Caraway as he watched his team pass horribly, resulting in desperation back-row hits that found the net for easy San Benito points.
“Calling a time-out at that point just would have put off the inevitable,” Caraway said.
The last four points went quickly, requiring little effort on the Haybalers’ part other than letting Denton serve.
Despite the anguish of the season-ending loss, Caraway expressed pride in what his team accomplished this season. The first Berkeley team to make the state tournament in more than a decade, the ’Jackets finished off their second straight undefeated ACCAL season and finally beat nemesis Bishop O’Dowd in the North Coast Section final.
“We had an outstanding year, and I had a great time,” Caraway said. “Most of my players are significantly better than they were in September, and that’s all I can ask for.”
The Berkeley coach was especially effusive in his praise for Guilliard-Young, whom he has coached for all of his four seasons with the school. She finished her career as the school-record holder in both single-season and career marks for kills and blocks.
“I doubt I’ll ever have another player in the program who makes the impact that she did,” Caraway said.