Girls’ varsity volleyball takes a big win against Branson in exceedingly close game

Emilie Erickson

On Thursday, Oct. 7, the girls’ varsity volleyball team competed in a spirited game against The Branson School, ultimately winning three out of five sets. Hoping for a victory, Redwood’s roaring crowd dressed in tropical attire and covered the bleachers. The girls’ major achievement provided them an edge against Branson in the race for home court advantage during the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) playoffs’ opening round that begins in two weeks.

The giants came out with strong intensity and insane blocks, winning the first set 25-15. After becoming accustomed to the giants’ scrappy style of play, Branson managed to keep Redwoods’ hits from touching the ground, carrying them to a win in the second set with a score of 25-16. 

According to varsity coach Ursula Gruenert, the game was evenly matched. 

“It was a matter of a few points of momentum that were able to determine the winner of each set,” Gruenert said. 

As the girls approached their third set, senior setter Jordan Vasquez led her team in strategizing. After paying close attention to Branson’s players and their momentum throughout the game, she felt confident with her teammates’ ability to win. 

Adjusting into position, freshman Ella Moran sets up for a smooth pass.

“A huge strategy we had was adjusting to their way of play on the fly,” Vasquez said. “We planned not to hit to [Branson’s] libero (back-row defense) because she got everything up consistently.” 

Sophomore Jaden Hendrickson, one of the varsity hitters, recognized the challenges they faced as areas for improvement as well.

“We needed to shut [Branson] down as fast and hard as we could. They have really consistent players, so that was a challenge,” Hendrickson said. 

Using their teamwork, force and rapid instincts, the girls were able to win the third set by a close score of 25-22. Branson however, struck back and their outside hitting duo set up many kills throughout the fourth set. The game tied at the end of the fourth quarter when the Giants lost the round 25-22. However, Redwood was not backing down.

“Everyone on our team was firing on all cylinders (peak level of performance), in each of our positions,” Vasquez said. “Something we [utilized was that] they didn’t have a big block up so we could swing away. Our hitters, (Emma) McDermott, Brooke Leslie and Hendrickson, used that to their advantage and were swinging all over the place.”

The giants huddled to prepare for their final set which would determine the victorious team, as the game drew to a close. With players on both sides hustling on the court, the set came down to a game point. The score was 14-7 with Redwood in the lead. Freshman defensive specialist Ella Moran stepped up to serve. Redwood got the ball over to the other side where Branson fumbled, hitting the ball into the net and handing the victory to Redwood. 

As the buzzer went off, students flooded the court to join the team, celebrating their big win. Senior outside hitter Leslie led the team with an outstanding total of 23 kills. Following the game, Gruenert gave her thoughts on what it took for the team to be successful.

“The only way [Redwood] is gonna be able to win the match is by taking risks that will make you stand out. Play with intention; have intention behind all of their actions,” Gruenert said. 

These ‘giant’ risk-takers are preparing to play with confidence and power at their next game against Archie Williams on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at the Redwood gymnasium.