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2017-18 NCS Volleyball Playoffs
10/29/17
Patten Girls Volleyball Team In NCS Sectional Playoffs


   The 2017 Bulldogs girls' volleyball team earned their way into the NCS Championship Series on the strength of a grueling schedule, a winning record within their division and league, and a berth in the Championship game for the Bay Area Christian Athletic League.


   


    The team, led by co-captains Laura Ramos and Jaszmyn Ponder, played the majority of their games against higher-division teams, including many from Divisions 1 and 2.  Though they lost many of those games, they gained an invaluable wealth of experience that served them well in later play against teams in their own division and league.


 


     With student assistant coach Paola Velasco-Wade working the sidelines and statistics, the team significantly improved their play and almost stole several games from D-1 and D-2 schools during two very competitive large-school tournaments in Marin and Fremont.  The fact that Patten was one of the few D-6 schools to actively compete at that level speaks volumes about the character of the players and staff and the efforts made by the school to provide a high-quality athletic program that seeks growth, not excuses.


 


    The Bulldogs ground through some tough times - losing every game played at both of the top-tier tournaments they faced, due partially to being severely undermanned at both due to injuries and missing players.  They ended up surprising some larger schools, though, who had to suddenly scramble and have some lucky breaks to win against a team they had initially discounted.  As each game progressed, the Bulldog players learned more and also grew more determined to win.


 


     The regular season of the Bay Area Christian Athletic League provided more hurdles for the Bulldogs to cross - this clearly was not going to be an issue-free season at any point.  From schools cancelling games, to venues becoming unavailable, to injuries and other issues making players unavailable, and even to the smoke from the fires invading one of the gyms during a game - they just kept plugging away.  In the end, despite two games lost due to extreme circumstances or controversial calls, the Bulldogs finished tied for second place in league play and earned a berth in the league playoffs.  They also amassed a 7-2 record against other Division 6 teams, both in and out of their league.


 


    On the day of the playoffs, the team once again had personnel trouble - only HALF of the team was able to make it to the game or play in it.  Injuries, family emergencies, and other issues kept key starters and position players away, and most observers expected the Bulldogs to go down to an early defeat and finish in 4th place. outside of trophy contention.


 


    The ladies who were there that day had other ideas.


 


    Playing what was perhaps their best game of the year, the Bulldogs came out in the round one game against North Hills Christian determined to simply not give up.  As Coach Mowrer said at one point, "I don't care if they beat you - just don't beat yourself.  Be the best team you can be, play the best game that you can, and don't worry about the scoreboard.  Play for each other."  The team did exactly that.  It took a couple of sets to gel as a team, since all of the players present had to reposition from their normal rotation - and North Hills took those first two sets, though they were more competitive than most had expected.


 


   When the third set began, the Patten girls simply dominated.  They simply REFUSED to lose, to quit, to get angry or upset or to fall apart.  They heeded the words said earlier - "play for each other".  They didn't mind if the other team scored, but they were going to make it as hard as possible.  In the end, the Bulldogs won the last three sets in a row (including one that went into overtime) to take the game and the right to compete for the league championship.


 


   Of all the games this author has watched, played in and coached, THAT game stands out as one of the best-played, most gutsy, and most deeply meaningful of all time.  Words cannot do it justice - you simply had to be there.  


 


    The championship game for the Bay Area Christian Athletic League occurred about five hours later, and though the Bulldogs lost in straight sets against Apostles Lutheran, they have nothing to be ashamed of.  Injuries had taken their toll by that time, and the lack of enough players to sub in and out proved unfortunate.  It was a very competitive game, however, with the luck of a single bounce being the deciding difference in one set and another being decided in overtime.  The game easily could have gone to five sets or ended with the bounces going the other way.  The Bulldogs played their hearts out and good enough to win in most circumstances.  That night was just not meant to be theirs.


 


    Following the conclusion of the regular season (which in CIF also includes league playoffs), the Patten squad had to wait more than a week to see if they would be selected for Sectional championship play.  Many aspects are taken into consideration by the committees that choose which teams will go to post-season play, with overall record being only a small factor.  Of more import is record within a team's division, league and also their strength-of-schedule - and in all three of those considerations Patten shined bright.  They had an overall 7-2 division record, a 5-3 league outcome (6-4 when playoffs are counted), and their strength-of-schedule was 4th best among the teams selected to move on.  Playing all of those D-1 and D-2 schools early in the season not only provided the Bulldogs with excellent experience, but with a schedule that few other D-6 schools could match.


 


   The selection committee met on Sunday morning, October 29, at the North Coast Section offices in San Ramon.  After all was said and done, the Bulldogs were seeding 9th in a 16-position field, out of 29 teams in NCS Division 6.  They will play California Corsspoint, the #8 seed, at Valley Christian in Dublin on Wednesday, November 1 at 7:00 PM.  This marks the third year in a row - all of the years that Patten has been a member of CIF - that the Bulldogs girl's volleyball team had gone on to the Sectionals.


 


    This season can best be described as a "tough journey" for the team.  Despite fierce competition, only five actual home games, a complete change of home gym during the season, disruptive and unpredictable schedule changes, injuries, illness and a host of player issues, they overcame all odds and obstacles to earn a berth in post-season play and recognition as one of the top teams in their division.  This didn't come easy, or without pain, work and discomfort.  All of those who have been a part of this team - the players, staff members, assistant coach, school staff and others who are responsible for making this season happen have helped to create something almost magical.  


 


It's not over yet.  One more game.  As the team's been saying all year - "every point counts - one point at a time".  Congratulations to the Lady Bulldogs - and good luck in the North Coast Section Championships. 


 

 

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