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The Tigers come back to win game two Nov. 5 in Portola. The championship is in site. Photo by Mari Erin Roth

Tigers give nothing away

The Portola High School Tigers played the most incredible volleyball game of the season Nov. 5 in Portola. The Tigers hosted the Fall River Bulldogs. The challenging teams both won rounds one and two to arrive in the third game of Northern Section playoffs, the semifinals. The games played were top notch.

The winner of the match was decided in five games. The individual scores were 25-18 Fall River, 22-25 PHS, 25-22 Fall River, 23-25 PHS and the final tiebreaker game of 15 points ended 16-14 for the Bulldogs; the winner must be determined by two points.

Fall River went on to the championship game Nov. 9 against the Burney Raiders and walked away with the first place trophy after beating the Raiders 3-0. But that was nothing like the fight the Tigers put up trying to get to that championship game.

In the first game Nov. 5 in Portola, it seemed like the Bulldogs had gotten a hold of the Tiger playbook. Fall River seemed ready for all the slick plays the Tigers brought to the court. The Bulldogs had four points before the Tigers got on the scoreboard. Tiger fans sat helpless while the PHS girls trailed the Bulldogs trying to figure out their opponents.

PHS points continued but were the result of Bulldog mistakes not Tiger force. The Portola girls had not yet found their game but were able to tread water and score 18 to the Bulldog 25. Fall River maintained the lead for the entire game.

Something started to change for the Tigers in game two. They stood face to face with the Bulldogs at 7-7 and took over. The Tiger team woke up to their position and strengths. The veil had been lifted. The Portola girls widened their lead but the Bulldogs eventually came back barking. Sophie Ward offered some sneaky plays that fooled the “Dogs” (as the Fall River fans called their team). The Tigers kept changing up their game but the Dogs wouldn’t let go, 12-12. Fall River took the lead back, but the Tigers trailed in heavy pursuit, 15-19. Senior Margaret Canseco took the serve and delivered the Tigers all the way past the Bulldogs, 22-23. The Tigers were on fire, playing fantastic and taking control. PHS won 25-22. The crowd went crazy.

With the game score one each, Portola took the lead for the first time, right out of the gate. Senior Emily Sheridan served the girls to 3-1. But the Bulldogs would not lie down. The game tied at 3-3 and this is how it went, 5-5, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13. The Dogs managed a 7-point lead, 22-15 but the Tigers caught up. Annie Folchi pulled the Tigers through some tough points with her serves up to 22-24. After an amazing battle and a huge effort from both teams, Fall River got that last point to win game three.

The teams headed into game four, 2-1 Fall River.

Portola showed their strength by taking the lead again at the start. This time the Tigers kept a safer point margin ahead of the Bulldogs. The game was exciting. The Tigers led 19-15 and then won 25-24 after maintaining the lead the whole game.

Two games each, semi finals, and just a 15-point win between one of the teams and the championship round. The first tie of the game, 1-1, came after a round of no less than 70 total hits. The rallies continued to be huge battles, every one, but the Tigers managed a good healthy lead to reach 14-11, they needed just one point. The Bulldogs were stubborn and would not let go. A marathon rally ended at 14-13, another preceded 14-15 as Fall River took the lead for the first time in two games. Emily Sheridan fired a shot that looked like the one to tie things up at 15-15 but that is not the way it went. The call was for the Bulldogs who then won the point and the match.

Tigers, Bulldogs, coaches and fans could walk away proud to have been part of the best high school volleyball performance of the season. It was stellar, really outstanding.

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