The No. 2 seed Wolverines beat the No. 7 Dons 25-16 in the first set, and finished them off 25-22 and 25-19.
Senior opposite hitter Noah Labonte and freshman outside hitter Jordan Ewert each notched 13 kills. Junior middle blocker Marcus Lee was credited with eight kills. Junior setter Derrico Kwa drilled a team-best 18 service aces; Lee tallied 16. Ewert also led the team with seven digs while sophomore libero Bezhan Wahidi made six.
Wolverines head coach Lou Panzella said that the team – himself included – was a bit rusty that night, after not competing for a week. Panzella wrote down the wrong lineup prior to the second game, a mistake he said happened for the first time in his long coaching career.
“I felt like we struggled a little bit,” Panzella said. “As a team, they responded OK to it. … It was a tough three-game match.”
Deer Valley (37-3) advances to face No. 3 Mission San Jose at home on Wednesday. The Warriors, who defeated California in four sets Friday, take a 27-7 record coming into the semifinal matchup. Panzella expects the Wolverines to be ready for a five-game battle on Wednesday.
Heritage also qualified for the NCS tournament, showing how much the program has improved this season. But Heritage had a tough first draw in Amador Valley, which felled the Patriots 25-18, 25-15, 25-13 in the first round of the playoffs. The Patriots (17-13) received solid efforts from junior middle blocker Alex Filardo, junior opposite hitter Brendan Kennealy, junior setter Freddy Moore and junior libero TJ Tyrfingsson.
Last season, the Patriots weren’t even a whisper in the postseason conversation after going 5-25 overall and 3-7 in Bay Valley Athletic League play. Heritage head coach Janet Hannigan credited the sudden improvement to better team chemistry.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Hannigan said. “Last year, we took our lumps pretty hard and we had a lot of returning players that were young. … Team chemistry is probably the main thing that the kids talked about. They said it was the best part of the season.”