PALO ALTO—With the Central Coast Section title on the line, Mount Madonna senior Paola Jacobs took a minute to examine the court and then set up for the serve.
In a flash, the ball sailed across the court and hit the hardwood for the match-winning point to help the top seeded Hawks defeat No. 6 Nueva in five sets, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 18-25, 15-13, on Saturday in the Division V championship match at Palo Alto High.
“I didn’t feel pressure at all. Usually I feel pressure on a game-point but I was ‘I got this,’” Jacobs said.
Jacobs led the Hawks to back-to-back CCS D-V titles for the first time in the program’s history and fourth title overall—2007 and 2009. Of the 31 schools in D-V, they are the smallest in size with 60 students.
With the win, the Hawks earned a trip back to the NorCal Division V playoffs. They were awarded the top seed and will host No. 16 Oakland Tech on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Mt. Madonna coach Erin Mitchell has won a total of four championships—two as a player and two as a coach.
As a sophomore, Mitchell was part of a Hawks’ squad in 2007 that won the program’s first Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title, NorCal D-V title and CIF title.
“I feel a lot of gratitude that I’m able to help and show other girls how amazing this feeling is,” Mitchell said. “And how all that hard work will pay off if you’re committed enough.”
Jacobs had three aces including the match-winning one in the fifth set that helped her capture her second-straight CCS title.
“It feels incredible, it feels really awesome and I can’t stop smiling,” Jacobs said. “I can’t believe we won that. I’m really impressed because that game could’ve gone either side.”
Jacobs also had 28 kills and 21 digs, while sophomore outside Liana Kitchel had 17 kills and 13 digs.
Senior libero Anmei Dasbach-Prisk had 16 digs, senior defensive specialist Tabby Hardin-Zollo had 14 digs and freshman middle Eve Willis had 10 kills.
Junior setter Savannah Cambell had three aces, 15 digs and a team-high 47 assists for the Hawks.
“I think it’s very unreal,” Cambell said. “I think we’re kind of in shock… That last point, it didn’t register and it still hasn’t registered that we won it and another banner will be in our gym again.”
Cambell said she believes this year’s title came as a shock because of the road they went through to get there.
The Hawks placed fourth (6-6) in the SCCAL standings and lost in the teague tournament semifinals against Harbor High, which shared the league title with Soquel High.
“We’ve just been putting our foot on the gas,” Cambell said. “We realize this is the feeling, let’s win state now.”
Mt. Madonna dropped the first set and fell into a deep hole in the second, going down 18-11. But they managed to win the next two sets led by Jacobs’ powerful strikes and accurate serving by Kitchel.
Anytime Kitchel went up to serve, it allowed Mt. Madonna to come out with a powerful rotation led by Jacobs on the outside and Cambell in the middle.
The Hawks had built their biggest lead of the match at 24-12 in the third and needed just a point to close it out. But the Mavericks stormed back with a 6-0 run before Mt. Madonna finally got the game-point.
“I think everyone is really impressed that we beat a really good team,” Mitchell said. “I thought it was incredible volleyball on both sides and I think both teams wanted it the same amount but only one team can win.”
Jacobs said she believes fatigue started to set in during the fourth set. It showed as Nueva kept attacking to begin the fourth set and built a 19-13 lead.
Mitchell called a pair of time outs to get the players to refocus but the Mavericks forced a fifth and deciding set for the CCS championship.
Both teams went back and forth and swapped the lead six times until the set was tied at 13-all.
“In our last huddle we were like let’s just put everything out there, no regrets at all,” Cambell said.
Jacobs said she already had instructions from Mitchell on where to go with the ball before taking the shot.
“She told me where to serve,” Jacobs said.
It worked, as the ball went directly to the right side of the back area and bounced off a Nueva defender for the win.
“(Jacobs) was on a different level tonight,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure she’s tired, she took a lot of swings but was not afraid to go for that huge serve at the end.”
Jacobs had a taste of success after last year’s title run but said this one felt a bit more special because she felt a bit more connected with this group.
“This year was the first time I felt apart of something and people were giving their all,” Jacobs said. “I think we all have the same goals to fight for each other and it really feels like a family.”
Cambell said she’s grateful to make it to the NorCal D-V playoffs once again and now the goal is to win a state title like they did in 2007.
“We know the feeling of winning and we know how we can do it, so we’re just going to keep putting our foot on the gas,” Cambell said.
Jacobs said the goal is to win a state title and believes this year’s group has the capability of growing as the season goes on.
“We know that we’re good and we know that we can work hard when we want to and we want to win this,” Jacobs said. “I think we’re just going to approach (the NorCal playoffs) with hard work and having the mindset that we’re capable of it.”
Up next, the Hawks (16-8) play the Bulldogs at home on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Editor’s Note:This article will be published in the Nov. 15 edition of The Pajaronian.