The Portola volleyball team won two playoff matches last week to advance to the Northern Section championship game last Saturday in Red Bluff, where the Tigers lost to top-seeded Hamilton.
Portola, seeded third in Division V, had a first-round bye before hosting East Nicolaus in the quarterfinals Nov. 16.
East Nicolaus had knocked Portola out of the playoffs the past two seasons, and it almost happened again last week, until Portola staged a dramatic come-from-behind victory in game five.
Down 4-8, the Tigers ran 10 straight points behind the serving of Suzanne Filippini, who delivered five aces on the night.
Portola’s Emma Briggs sparked the comeback by scoring four straight points from in front of the net.
“I just wanted to win,” said Briggs. “Nothing’s getting over the net.”
The Tigers barely reached game five by surviving a match point in game four and coming back to win 27-25.
Three of the five games were decided by two points, as East Nicolaus won the first game 27-25 and the third game 25-23. Portola won game two 25-19.
“This was our first match in 12 days, and East Nicolaus took advantage of the fact that we were a little rusty,” said Portola coach Matt Compton. “The outside and back row attacks by their best hitter, and tips and dumps by the setter, really kept us off balance, but our girls found their way to a win. I am very pleased with their ability to persevere through this match.”
The victory advanced Portola to a semifinal game at Los Molinos last Thursday, and the Tigers eliminated the higher-seeded team in three games, 25-23, 26-24 and 25-15.
“The girls played their best match of the year on Thursday,” said Compton. “I think the sense of urgency among them, especially the seniors, knowing a spot in the section final and possibly the last match of their high school careers was at stake, was a large motivating factor in their play.
“Through team work and camaraderie, the girls reached their potential.”
Ellie Kibble directed Portola’s offense with 22 assists, and Lindsey Compton delivered 26 kills.
On defense, Filippini led the Tigers with 12 digs, followed by Briggs with nine and Ashley Lopez with eight.
In last Saturday’s title match, Portola lost in three games to a very skilled Hamilton team. The scores were 25-14, 25-21 and 25-17.
By reaching the Northern Section championship, Portola qualified for the CIF state volleyball championships. The Tigers traveled to face top-seeded Branson Tuesday, Nov. 23. The results weren’t known at press time.