GVB: Owls own clash with No. 1 Rams

VIDEO: Match Point

Laguna Blanca was all business on Saturday afternoon at Cate, showing new-found composure in tense moments, on its way to a 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 28-26 non-league victory.

The matchup between two small-schools powerhouses tested the Owls under pressure. Both teams are undefeated in their respective leagues and rarely challenged. Cate is ranked No. 1 in CIF Division 4AA while Laguna Blanca holds the No. 4 ranking in Division 4A.

Phoebe Madsen

Laguna Blanca’s Phoebe Madsen makes a set.

“This game was the first time I’ve seen all of us work hard collectively and we need to do that as a team and I think that’s what really helped us and I think we’re going to grow a lot because of it,” said Owls do-it-all team leader Phoebe Madsen.

Head coach Jason Donnelly agreed with his senior co-captain. Cate fought off several match points in the fourth set but Laguna was able to close them out and avoid a fifth set.

“We talked yesterday about the difference between playing volleyball and being a volleyball player,” Donnelly said. “I think our girls grew up a little bit today as volleyball players. ”

The Owls could have let the fourth set slip away on several occasions. Laguna Blanca kept jumping out in front only to have Cate scramble back to tie.  In the third set it was the Owls who rallied to win the set, suddenly finding that Madsen was on fire. Laguna Blanca outscored Cate down the stretch in the third set 12-2 after the Rams led 19-13.

“In that situation and in volleyball in general, we set it until they stop it,” Donnelly said.

Madsen finished with 21 kills, four aces and 17 digs. Dani Abrams finished off some key points for the Owls and finished with 17 kills. Maddy Nicholson at the service line and setter Kelly Bickett also drew praise from their coach.

The Owls overcame a Rams team that brought its top form onto the court according to Cate head coach Greg Novak.

“That was our best match of the season,” Novak said. “We played phenomenally. Even when we were down, they had the tenacity to come back. They wanted to win.”

Peyton Shelburne collected a team-high 22 kills. Delaney Mayfield added 16 kills.

Cate has a busy week ahead, facing Santa Paula on Tuesday, Foothill Tech on Thursday, and Dos Pueblos on Friday.

Laguna travels to Dunn on Wednesday in a return to Condor League play as the Owls seek to finish off their 14th-straight league title.