January 24, 2021
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Cougars prevail in thrilling five setter

By: Paul Matli
November 1, 2019

In what could be described as destiny, the Rancho Cotate High School women’s volleyball team defeated Ukiah 3 sets to 2 in what was a wire to wire, heavyweight type of match. The Cougars won the fifth and final set 15-12 in route to their first Senior Night victory in 10 tries. This accomplishment, in front of a raucous crowd, is what the Cougars’ volleyball program has been waiting for.

“Rancho has been through some hard times with our volleyball program,” Coach Jeff Bradshaw said. “It’s been 9 years since we’ve won a Senior Night; it’s been 10 years; we’ve had an opportunity to go to the playoffs back to back years.”

This message from Bradshaw is true. Every high school, unless they are elite in every sport, has cycles of ups and downs. In the case of the Cougars, their volleyball program has been mostly down over the last decade, so having this opportunity is something the girls didn’t want to slip away.

Bradshaw’s post game message was directed at the six seniors who were honored Thursday night for setting the foundation on which this current team is built on.

“The seniors have seen the rough times and now they’re seeing us as we continue to prosper. They’re the ones who helped build this program.” Bradshaw said. 

Bradshaw spoke glowingly about the seniors off the court. To him, the seniors not only built the program on the court, but off of it. They did it by setting the example for the younger girls to follow.

Building culture is a long process as any athlete knows. Any athlete or former athlete reading this story can relate to the struggles and the successes. For a struggling program, even the easiest parts of the jobs seem to be an adventure, but once the team gets past the rough patches, it’s smooth sailing.

Thursday night’s win was a cultivation of the hard work put in by the Rancho senior women.

Though Coach Bradshaw was pleased after the game, he understands there’s still work to be done. The Cougars will be in the playoffs for the second time in as many seasons. Last season the Cougars got swept by number two seed Miramonte, so their goal this year will be winning a playoff game or two.

“The message going into playoffs, is that it’s not too big for us,” Bradshaw said. “We said that last year. I think we were happy to make the playoffs. This year the message is the moments not too big for us.  We’ve played the top teams in all divisions, so we can go and play, we just need to be able to execute.”

Execution is a word Bradshaw used frequently in his post-game comments. Though his team won in five sets, he felt the execution wasn’t always on point. The Cougars know they have to continue shoring up the areas they struggled in to ensure a deep playoff run.

The Cougars won’t have much time to enjoy this win as they are back in action Tues. night against Moreau Catholic in the first round of the NCS Playoffs. The Cougars are the tenth seed in the tournament and will have to travel to Hayward. The game will start at 7 p.m.

The six seniors; Natalie Allen, Sammy Alverio, Kelley Evart, Faith Harvey, Cayla Nixon and Jayden Sola hope this won’t be their last game wearing Cougar colors. Even if it is, Coach Bradshaw, the community and younger players won’t forget the impact these six had on the current trajectory of the program. The legacy of these six is already known but could grow if the Cougars make a deep playoff run.