Whatever confidence the Centennial volleyball team may have lost during an 0-4 start to the season, has officially been restored — and then some.
The Golden Hawks, who lost to four teams with a combined record of 51-14 in the first three weeks of the season, have turned a corner of late, winning four straight.
Centennial’s latest performance, a home sweep of Porterville-Monache on Thursday night, showcased just how far the team has progressed.
“I definitely think we overcame some adversities,” Golden Hawks coach Holly Russell said. “Playing those tougher teams in the beginning of our season really challenged us. But we were really able to build off of those losses and I think that created a hungrier team.”
That desire was on display early and often on Thursday night, with sisters Nariah and Nya Prescott providing the spark in a balanced scoring attack that led to a 25-14, 25-19, 25-12 victory over the Marauders (6-2).
The Prescotts combined for four kills, two blocks and three aces in the opening set, erasing an early 3-1 deficit thanks to a 10-2 scoring run that pushed Centennial’s lead to 19-9. Leah Arellanes had three straight aces during her team’s push and several well-placed sets, and Analisa Alexander and Victoria Lin provided added punch with a combined three kills and three blocks to help their team to a quick start.
“For today’s match, we wanted to carry our momentum from our Clovis North match, which has been our best match by far,” said Russell of her team’s five-set victory over the Broncos last week. “I think the girls are getting used to this winning streak that we’re on. I don’t think they’re going to let it go too easily.”
After falling behind early in the second set, thanks to four kills and an ace by the Marauders’ Zoe Czaja, the Golden Hawks erased a 9-4 deficit, scoring six of the next seven points to even the set at 10-10.
Freshman outside hitter Lara Martinez had two of her six kills during the rally, and added another as Centennial finished off the set with seven straight points.
The Golden Hawks closed out the match with a dominant third set, scoring first five points and building a 13-2 lead on the strength of kills by the Prescotts, Alexander and Arellanes.
Nya Prescott and Alexander finished with a game-high eight kills, along with two blocks and two assists, while Nariah Prescott and Martinez contributed six kills apiece.
“We’ve really been working on mentality, because when a team gets on a run, it’s really about the momentum of the game,” Russell said. “We’re focused on (telling ourselves) we’re going to win the physical and the mental game. Every game. So we’ve really been looking at it in those two different aspects and it’s been very beneficial for us so far.”
It was that mindset that Russell feels helped her team overcome the rough start to the season.
“It was really the girls, they really took it upon themselves to just say we’re not okay with this,” Russell said. “This is not the team that we want to be, and it was really a game changer after our Clovis East game (that dropped the team to 0-4). They really said, ‘OK, we’re buying in, we’re doing this.’ That was the huge turning point for us.”
Next up for Centennial is a trip to the Clovis North tournament, where Russell and her team expect to see some familiar foes in Clovis, Visalia-Central Valley Christian, Clovis West and Clovis East, which defeated the Golden Hawks prior to their turnaround.
“There will be some pretty tough teams up there, some teams that we’ve already seen and lost to,” Russell said. “I’m hoping that we get to see those teams and show them that, ‘hey, the team that you played before is not the team that we are.’ We’re definitely looking for some redemption.”