It was an incredible and historic fall season for the California High girls volleyball team.
The galvanized Grizzlies won the East Bay Athletic League title and their first North Coast Section crown in 30 years in Division I. They also advanced to the Northern California Division I semifinals with a thrilling five-game win over Homestead-Cupertino on Nov. 20 before falling to Granite Bay.
Moreover, playing on center stage revealed the Grizzlies' team harmony, talent and resilience.
In a mesmerizing match against Homestead, the Grizzlies (30-4) nearly let the Mustangs off the hook. The final scores were 26-28, 25-22, 25-11, 23-25, 18-16.
But the Grizzlies did not wilt even after squandering a two-to-one lead for the first time this season.
"This was only the third time we've been five all year," California coach Todd Baham said. "We usually close teams out. We lost 21 games before tonight out of 94, so we weren't used to being in this position, so it was shocking to me. It really was. But give Homestead all the credit in the world."
The match featured City Beach club 17 Open teammates and buddies, Emily Reed of Homestead and Sabrina Clayton of California. Neither star disappointed. Reed, who is headed to USF, had a match-high 32 kills, and Clayton, bound for Santa Clara, passed well and had 26 kills and 12 digs.
California's backup setter Devon Haley gave a strong performance as she started for Caitlyn Quindoy, who came in as a substitute because she missed a practice, Baham said. Of course it was Quindoy (31 assists, eight digs) who assisted Clayton on her match-winning kill.
Clutch serving by Morgan Gilfillan spurred a Grizzlies' rally in a back-and-forth fifth game, in which California overcame deficits of 7-3 and 8-5. "Overall they beat us. We didn't lose. They beat us," Homestead coach Gary Carroll said.
The amazing Clayton also had 29 kills and 11 digs in the NCS championship win over San Ramon Valley, but the essence of Cal's memorable season was team unity and dedication.
AMADOR FINISHES STRONG: Even though the season ended with a loss against De La Salle in the NCS Division I semifinals on Nov. 24, the Amador Valley football team accomplished its two main objectives: advancing to the section playoffs and ending its long losing streak to Foothill.
It was a successful season for the Dons (8-5), who upended EBAL co-champion San Ramon Valley 28-25 in the NCS quarterfinals after it beat Castro Valley 45-27 in the first round.
On a rainy night against the Wolves, the Dons' stout offensive line paved the way for runners Alejandro Apodaca (161 yards) and Sam Peters (113). The Dons line consisted of Clint Mankins, James Moore, Josh Pease, Jesse Cerdas, and Nate Vickers.
Amador also topped rival Foothill 28-24 to conclude a sweet EBAL season, snapping a seven-game losing skid against the Falcons. The win came after consecutive come-from-behind victories over Granada (34-28) and highly ranked Monte Vista (24-21).
Overall, the Dons epitomized coach Rick Sira's "Big Team, Little Me" persona.
tennis, anyone?: Credit Monte Vista ace Kaitlyn Haithcock and the Mustangs doubles duo of Betsy Main and Danielle Yancey for recovering from semifinal defeats to prevail in third-place wins at the NCS Division I singles championships.
The No. 2 seeded Mustangs, which won the NCS team title, will face either Lowell-San Francisco or Foothill-Palo Cedro in the second round of the Northern California team tournament on Nov. 30 at the Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento.
Another big story at NCS was the unseeded Dublin duo of Myiesha Simmons and Vi Nguyen's stunning run to a Division I championship. Simmons, the best singles player in the doubles tourney, has pro tennis aspirations.
Contact Matt Schwab at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @schwab_matt.