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River Valley ousted in first round
When River Valley High's volleyball team reached the playoffs for the first time last year, most people involved with the program were just happy to be there.
Sure, a first-round loss to Rio Americano stung, but with six players returning to the team this season, the Falcons were hopeful they could build on that success and make a deeper run in the postseason.
But after rolling to a 21-2 regular season record and winning the program's first ever outright Tri-County Conference title, the Falcons found themselves in the same situation on Tuesday night — and this loss hurts even more.
Despite another strong performance by senior middle blocker Taylor Massengale, No. 3-seeded River Valley saw the most successful season in program history come to an abrupt end with a four-set loss to No. 14 Vanden in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
Not that the match was a blowout, though.
The first set was tied 24-24 before the Vikings (16-7) came away with a 27-25 win and the second game was more of the same, with Vanden scoring the final seven points to take the set 25-18.
River Valley fought back to take the third game 25-19, but too many unforced errors in the fourth allowed the visitors to close it out with a 25-18 victory.
"It's not what I expected," River Valley coach Jenny Dove said. "We started strong, but our problem all year was playing with consistency. We were up and we let them back in the game and you can't do that, especially in the playoffs."
Leading the way for RV once again was Massengale, who closed out her prep career with a game-high 24 kills. Younger sister Courtney Massengale chipped in with eight kills for the Falcons, who started a pair of sophomores at outside hitter and brought up a freshman for the playoff match.
"It's tough. It was an intimidating game for them," Dove said of her underclassmen. "They were thrown to the wolves, but they can learn from this for the future."
McKenzie Skyberg finished with 21 assists and 15 digs, Amrita Dale dished out 15 assists and had 14 digs and Sierra Pedley added 15 digs in the loss.
But although the Falcons came up short in their quest for their first ever playoff win, they have steadily progressed over Dove's four years leading the program. RV went 3-16 in Dove's first season in 2009, improved to 8-13 in 2010 and finished 15-8 last season while clinching a share of the TCC title.
The 21 wins this year by far were the most ever for the school, and while Dove would've liked the season to continue at least another week, she's happy with what her team achieved.
"I had a great year with these kids and I wouldn't trade it for anything," she said.