By Jeremy Balan
Mercy High School faced early deficits in each game of its first-round Central Coast Section playoff match against visiting King City on Tuesday night, but at the end of each game, there was no doubt which team was superior.
The sixth-seeded Skippers eliminated each deficit and cruised to a 25-19, 25-13, 25-12 win to advance to the Division IV quarterfinals on Thursday.
“From where they were at the beginning of the season, they have improved quite a bit as a team,” said Mercy head coach Locke Chin. “They are much more mature and they handle different situations, errors, failure, much better.”
The Skippers (22-11) used a balanced attack to take the first game, but in the second game, standout senior outside hitter Courtney Sabahi took over.
Sabahi had six kills and four aces in the second game, and erased an early 4-1 deficit all by herself. She tipped a ball over a pair of King City (16-12) blockers to bring the score to 4-2, scored two consecutive aces to bring the score to 4-4, then connected on a back-row kill to give the Skippers a lead they would not relinquish, spurring a 15-2 Mercy run.
“She’s my best hitter and we have a natural connection,” said Mercy senior setter Lauren Tom. “The main part is that we all came together as a team. We’re all on the same page.”
Sabahi had a match-high 11 kills, but Tom spread the ball around to hitters Emma Seslar, Sophia Marconcini, Ada May and Monica Garrett, who all finished with five kills or more.
“Any player who is hot, we want the ball set to her,” Chin said. “It could be middle, could be outside, could be anyone. We just try to be versatile.”
The Skippers also had a considerable advantage in the service game, scoring 16 aces, led by six from junior libero Antonia Alegria.
Up next for Mercy is West Bay Athletic League foe Menlo, the third seed in the tournament. The Knights (23-7) took both regular-season meetings between the two teams, but Mercy did take a game from Menlo in each loss.
“This is our year, so we just want to finish strong. We want to go out with a bang,” Sabahi said. “This is the best team we’ve had in a while, so we want to show what we have.”