By Jeremy Balan
KENTFIELD — While University’s CIF-North Coast Section playoff run ended with a 25-20, 25-20, 25-17 loss to top-seeded Branson on Saturday at College of Marin, the lopsided affair may have come with a slight silver lining — the loss may have come against the state’s best Division V team.
Branson (29-7), 2009’s defending Division V state champion, was in control throughout and jumped out to large leads early in each game, which was too much for University (23-9) to overcome.
“You can’t give teams [at this level] five or six points and think that you’ll battle back,” said University head coach Ki Choi. “It just puts too much pressure on the team. You have to keep things close and give yourself a chance at the end of the game.”
Branson didn’t lose a single game in the entire NCS playoffs and hadn’t allowed more than 15 points to any opponent until Saturday.
The biggest issues for the Red Devils were getting past a dominant Branson block and stopping hitters Kathleen Wallace and Alex Schoenberger, who finished with 15 and 13 kills, respectively.
“They made so many adjustments to slow us down and I was really impressed with what they did, but obviously we played great, so I was really happy with that,” said Branson head coach Michelle Brazil.
University junior outside hitter Katherine Evers led the Red Devils again with a team-high 13 kills, but no other University players finished with more than four kills.
But after University’s upset of Marin Academy in the semifinals on Wednesday, Evers felt the Red Devils let their guard down.
“We took some time off and took a break to really celebrate [beating Marin Academy],” Evers said. “We didn’t have a clear goal to get on Branson right away and that really hurt us.”
Still, being NCS finalists, both teams receive a bid to the CIF state championship tournament that begins on Tuesday. It’s new life that is embraced by the Red Devils.
“We’re looking forward to Tuesday’s game and going out there and trying our hardest,” Evers said. “I don’t know who we’re going to play, but it doesn’t matter if we have the right attitude.”