Girls’ varsity volleyball falls against Marin Catholic in hotly contested MCAL Championship

Patrick Jacobson

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Redwood coach Ursula Kunhardt talks strategy during a team huddle.

On Friday night, the girls’ varsity volleyball team took on its formidable opponent, Marin Catholic (MC), in the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) championship. The two teams faced off against each other in a packed and stuffy Drake High School gym. On one side was a legion of red and black, cheering for the Giants––opposing them was a throng of blue and white, loyal to the Wildcats.

In the end, the throng of blue and white prevailed. Marin Catholic won by a margin of three sets to one on Oct. 25, sealing their fourth straight MCAL pennant. However, Redwood came closer to the title this year than any other during MC’s streak, reaching the finals for the first time in five years. Redwood’s successful season was powered by senior Lucy Walsh and junior Ella Green, who have both verbally committed to play volleyball at Division I schools. During the game, Green led Redwood with fifteen kills and Walsh contributed more than 30 assists.

Senior and three-year varsity player Elsa Kemp reflected on MC’s dominance over the past several years.

“MC has always been [the target]…they’ve always been our biggest rivals…but it’s hard to really put it away and beat them,” Kemp said.

The match remained close through the first three sets, ending with scores of 25-19 (MC), 30-28 (Redwood) and 25-21 (MC). In the fourth and final set, however, the Wildcats pulled away, scoring a victory of 25-10 over the fatigued Giants. According to Redwood coach Ursula Kunhardt, one of their biggest struggles during the game was physical endurance.

“We hadn’t actually gone to a fifth set [this season]. The consistency of our game is something that we battled with [throughout the season], but it’s hard to stay consistent with a game like volleyball,” Kunhardt said.

Kemp also attributes some of their loss to the mental toll the sport takes on the players.

Standing next to the net, Brooke Leslie and Ella Green prepare for a serve from Marin Catholic.

“I think it’s our mental game…We played a really good game, and then in the fourth, our mentality and our emotional strength fell off because they gained a big lead on us in the beginning…we weren’t able to mentally push through that,” Kemp said.  

In addition to the mental component of the match, Kemp found that there were more physical issues that took a toll on the team towards the end of the match.

“I think our serve-receive fell apart at the end, and I think our blocking could have been better at the end as well. I think we did really good in those departments in the [first three sets], but in the fourth set those things just fell apart,” Kemp said.

Despite Redwood’s failure to achieve their ultimate goal of MCAL champions, freshman Kaley Matthews is optimistic about their future. 

“The fact is that they just out-served us and outplayed us. I think that next year, with all the [MC seniors] graduating, that’ll really help us,” Matthews said.

While the team faced a set of hardships this past season, Kemp believes the team can still improve for next year.

“A lot of volleyball is a mental thing, so if [the team] can be mentally strong next year and just push through, I think we’ll take the pennant,” Kemp said. 

Despite the loss, the girls’ season isn’t over yet. At a future date (undetermined due to power outages), the Division II North Coast Section tournament will kick off. Redwood, ranked as the fourth seed out of 16, will be playing Windsor High School at home. If they win that match and the next, they’ll be on course for a rematch with number-one-seeded Marin Catholic in the semi-finals.