DANVILLE -- When the 2013 season began, the San Ramon Valley High girls volleyball team was not considered to be among the elite in the East Bay Athletic League or in Division I in the North Coast Section. Not with a relatively young lineup and not after a few all-league players had graduated.
But the Wolves tore through the EBAL in unbeaten fashion and Saturday, completed their run through the NCS Division I bracket with a 22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22 win over visiting Heritage to earn their third section crown in the last six years, and the fourth in the program's history.
"If people were calling for others to win it this year, we didn't mind being the underdog," San Ramon Valley coach Brian Fujinaga said. "That fueled us all year, and I'm proud of the way the girls brought it together."
San Ramon Valley (33-3) jelled as a team as the season progressed, but also received an incredible individual effort from superb sophomore Katherine Claybaugh, who had 30 kills against the Patriots after she had 34 against California on Wednesday in the semifinals. For the season, Claybaugh had 568 kills.
"She not only played incredibly in this match, but she played incredibly all year," Fujinaga said. "As a coach, it was really exciting to watch her grow."
Claybaugh had the final kill of the match, and almost as importantly, had the final kill in the second set. That came after the Patriots (27-9) had won the first set, and were threatening to go up 2-0.
Heritage looked to bounce back from the second set defeat, and led 14-10 and 23-22 in the third, but couldn't take the crucial 2-1 lead.
The Wolves scored the final three points in the third set, then scored the seven of the final 10 in the fourth.
"This was incredibly because we played for each other," San Ramon Valley senior setter Kate Berry said. "Everyone was unselfish, which was huge because each point was important."
For the Patriots, it was two of their strengths that failed them in their quest to win the school's first ever NCS title, as passing and serving haunted them, especially in crucial moments late in sets.
Division I Championship San Ramon Valley d. Heritage
Scores: 22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22. Highlights: H -- Reed 33 assists; Hanna 11 kills; Vernoy 10 kills, 3 blocks; Hannigan 10 kills; Boyce 10 kills. SRV -- Berry 43 assists; Claybaugh 30 kills; Anderson 14 kills; Vleisides 8 kills. Records: Heritage 27-9, San Ramon Valley 33-3.