Tokay High volleyball head coach Kirsten Ryan will probably remember her team’s first meeting with the rival Lodi High squad for a long time.
Kayly Pau and her Tokay teammates established those memories for their first-year coach in Monday’s Tri-City Athletic League match at The Jungle. In 55 minutes, Tokay swept Lodi 3-0; the final scores were 25-18, 25-20, 25-9. The win wraps up the first round of league action the two city schools.
“They kept inspiring each other,” Ryan said. “Every single person on the team is just as important as another player. All fed off each other’s energy.”
In the first set, Tokay used a deadly 1-2 punch of serving and play at the net. Pau recorded two of her 23 kills that led to the Tigers taking a 7-2 lead.
“We all went in with hard swings, along with smart shots to take them out of their game early and cause frustration upon their girls,” said Pau, who also had 14 digs.
Combined with the serving from sophomore outside hitter Jackie Patino (18 digs), who had four points in the first set, and the outside hitting and middle blocking of Pau and Ehlie Burroughs, Tokay (2-3 in the TCAL, 4-5) raced to a 13-6 lead.
“We practice serving at practice, and it really paid off tonight and kept Lodi off balance,” Pau said. “We also didn’t miss many, which helped us get more points.”
But Lodi (1-4 in the TCAL, 15-9) battled in this and second sets. Outside hitters Riley Woznick and Madison Steele, along with setter Gianna Mora and liberos Hannah Dondero and Jordyn Hummel, who also played outside hitter in the second set, kept several rallies to record most of their points and kept the set close; Tokay had leads of 11-6, 13-6 and 17-12 in which Pau had two aces from serving.
“I think the biggest thing we knew (Pau) was going to be their big hitter,” said Lodi head coach Chuck Sterni. “We just needed to capitalize on getting ahead a little bit while we absorbed the punishment; she’s pretty much the whole team, right?”
Tokay finished the first set with an 8-6 run that was mostly on Lodi errors.
Moving to the second set, Lodi, behind the serving of Hummel and Tokay side outs, led to short-lived leads of 7-6 and 8-7.
“They are strong on the hitting, but it’s just a matter of keeping that rhythm,” Sterni said.
But Polhemus (21 assists), a junior who has been playing on the varsity level since she was a freshman, helped give the Tigers a 12-9 with her serving behind the line with four points.
“They fought hard in the first and second (sets),” Ryan said.
However, the Tigers saw some dropped volleyballs in the middle of the court, thanks to Woznick and Steele killing the volleyball down the middle and outside of the playing lines for points. That helped Lodi close the gap to 15-14.
Then the serving of Patino and Tiger teammate Devyin McClurg and setter Paige Delph, who is only a sophomore, contributed toward another Tokay rally with serving points and play at the net respectively. That led to building their team’s lead to 22-18. Patino finished the set with a service point.
Two aces from Patino and Lodi side outs led to Tokay taking a 7-2 lead in the third set. After two Tokay side outs that led to an 8-4 score, Delph took charge behind the line for the Tigers. That is where she served eight consecutive points, which led to a 20-4 score.
Along Pau, Polhemus, Ashley Ortegel, McClurg, Burroughs and Patino moving the ball around toward the end of the set, the Tigers went on to win the match that ended when Burroughs killed the ball down the center of the court on the Flames’ side.
Ryan was surprised that this edition of the Lodi-Tokay volleyball meeting would take less than an hour.
“I did expect to go more,” Ryan said. “My girls just didn’t let up.”
Ryan was part of the Tokay volleyball teams in the mid-1980s. Ryan, then known as Kirsten George, is a 1987 Tokay High graduate who went on to play collegiate volleyball.
“It feels fantastic,” said Ryan of the sweep.
Contact Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.