Girls Volleyball: Lee’s aces lead University to NCS win over Calistoga

University blockers Emily Lee (16) and Annika Wildenradt (4) rise up for a block on Wednesday at University High School. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

By Jeremy Balan

University junior setter Emily Lee hasn’t been able to use her jump serve in recent matches due to a minor back injury.

But with a clean bill of health and armed with one of her best weapons, Lee had a staggering 13 aces in University’s dominating 25-14, 25-5, 25-14 win over visiting Calistoga in the first round of the CIF-North Coast Section Division V playoffs on Wednesday.

University senior middle blocker Katie Kirkland lines up one of her match-high 11 kills on Wednesday at University High School. (Photo by AJ Canaria)

“I’m just getting it back. I had to do a standing serve for a while,” Lee said. “We pretty much dominated out there and just got it done.”

Lee’s serves were most effective in the second game, when the Red Devils (21-8) went on a 16-0 run to end the game all on the junior’s serve. She also keyed a 11-0 run in the third game, where she had six aces during the stretch.

“She’s back and healthy now and having that weapon is going to help us as we progress,” said University head coach Ki Choi. “She’s always been a tough server whether she’s on the floor or elevating, but it’s nice for her to build some confidence through that.”

Even without the aces from Lee, University controlled the entire match, allowing only 12 total kills from 14th-seeded Calistoga (13-9), while senior middle blocker Katie Kirkland had a match-high 11 kills and junior outside hitter Katherine Evers tallied eight.

What was more important for the Red Devils was their ability to bounce back from a heartbreaking five-game loss to Marin Academy in the Bay Counties League West championship game on Saturday.

“I wanted to see if we could stay focused after that tough loss to MA,” Choi said. “Coming out in NCS, it doesn’t matter who you play, you have to come out and do what you do. We’ve never seen Calistoga. We didn’t know what they were all about, so we had to maintain that focus.”

Calistoga was outmatched by University throughout, but first-year head coach Elizabeth Casey was happy with one of the most successful seasons in the school’s recent history.

“Being the 14th seed, it was just a great opportunity,” Casey said. “We got to play the best of the best. The program hasn’t been that successful and we got eight girls who came on board with me this year.”

With first round losses from Convent, International and Bay in NCS opening round matches, the third-seeded Red Devils are the only remaining City team remaining in the Division V tournament and will face sixth-seeded Valley Christian of Dublin on Saturday.

“At this point if you’re not thinking about wanting to get further along and how you’re going to do that, then you’re selling yourself short,” Choi said. “We’re going to make sure we do the best we can and when we do that, we’re pretty good.”

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