SAN RAMON -- In a spellbinder, the California High girls volleyball team took a 26-28, 25-22, 25-11, 23-25, 18-16 victory over visiting Homestead-Cupertino on Tuesday night in the first round of the Northern California Division I playoffs.
The No. 3 seeded Grizzlies, fresh off their first North Coast Section Division I title in 30 years, prevailed over the No. 6 Mustangs when senior stalwart Sabrina Clayton hit her 26th kill, to go along with 12 digs.
The clutch shot came off Caitlyn Quindoy's 31st assist overall, deciding a tense game five.
The Grizzlies faced deficits of 3-0, 4-1, 5-2 and 7-3 in the final game, but would not be denied.
What made the difference in the end?
"Probably our defense and never giving up," said Clayton, who is headed to Santa Clara. "We were down in the end, and we just pushed through it. We were going all out."
California tied it at 13 after Clayton won a joust at the net in game five. The teams exchanged points before Homestead star outside hitter Casey Carroll's ace made it 15-14. Clayton tipped one over to tie it before Emily Reed, who had a match-high 32 kills, had a kill off the block. The Grizzlies' Jennifer Gill had a block to tie it at 16-16, Homestead then hit wide, and Clayton put the outcome to rest.
California and Homestead went back-and-forth all night.
The Mustangs, the runner-up in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs, took game one 28-26, but the Grizzlies took the next two games and appeared to be cruising to victory before the Mustangs stormed back.
California coach Todd Baham said his team lost focus in the fourth game.
"We have a mantra: Focus. Fight. Finish," he said. "I get it. It's been a long season. Their goal was an East Bay Athletic League and an NCS championship and everything else was on top, but I'm glad they persevered. They showed me something."
Homestead coach Gary Carroll was pleased with the fight in his team. He also applauded the winners.
"They played great. I'm very impressed with Sabrina," he said. "She really came on strong. It's a hostile gym. We had to load a bus full of fans and bring 'em because we knew it would be a tough place to play. Small gym."