By Bonta Hill
Balboa scratched and clawed with much bigger Rancho Cotate of Rohnert Park, but couldn’t overcome the Cougars considerable size advantage and lost 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-18) in a non-league match on Tuesday at Balboa High School.
“I already knew Rancho would come in with size as they generally have a lot of tall players,” said Balboa head coach Val Tintiangco-Cubales.
After losing a tough five-game match to Terra Linda of San Rafael on Friday, the Bucs seemed to run out of gas during the end of each game on Tuesday and Balboa, a semifinalist in the AAA playoffs a year ago, dropped to 0-2 on the young season.
Balboa is trying to whether the storm as it has been hit with early season injuries to starting middle blockers Ellen Wee and Cynthia Ngan.
“That’s our main issue right now is trying to fill in those spots,” said senior outside hitter Sophin Ngoun. “We’re kind of just throwing anybody out there to try to fit the pieces.”
The first game saw Balboa start off sloppy, as it quickly faced a 8-4 deficit. The Cougars (1-1), with seniors Madison Hallroan, Katie Martin, and Courtney Morton, controlled the action around the net.
The much smaller Bucs would find their rhythm and take a brief 11-10 lead, but Balboa would later lead 20-16 in the first game. Rancho then rallied to score five straight to take a 21-20 lead.
Rancho then held off Balboa to take the first game 26-24, withstanding Ngoun’s seven kills. She finished with ten in the match.
The second game was a carbon copy of the first, as Rancho opened up a 4-0 lead to see Balboa fight back to go up 13-12, as Ngoun and libero Lily Louey kept the Bucs afloat.
The Cougars then scored six straight points to take the lead and go up 22-17. After both teams traded points, Rancho closed the game 25-22.
“[We] played a whole lot more fired up than they did in out first game,” said Cougar head coach Edna Monroe. “We talked a lot more on defense and communicated very well.”
Balboa jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead in the third game, but on this night, the Cougars appeared to always have an answer and they took control of the third game to finish off the sweep.
“Balboa scraps every year we play them,” Monroe said. “I always tell my team in practice, ‘Don’t let any balls hit the court,’ because [Balboa] will take advantage with their quickness.”
Tintiangco-Cubales loved his team’s fight and hustle as they had spirited rally’s throughout, but knows his team is going to have to play better offensively.
“Our girls know how to keep the ball in play, but the thing we have issues with right now is transition,” Tintiangco-Cubales said. “[We want to have] somebody set it up and put the ball away, but right now we’re kind of hoping the other team makes a mistake.”
The Bucs face another stern non-league test on Thursday when they take on a talented Sacred Heart Cathedral squad.
“We’re excited about Thursday and we love playing against the bigger teams, because it prepares us for league.” Ngoun said. “When we get to league and play against teams that are similar in size, we’ll bring it.”