The Tracy High volleyball team cruised past the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs with a 3-0 win against Rodriguez High of Vallejo on Tuesday.

Tracy (24-8, 7-3 Tri-City Athletic League) entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in SJS Division 2, so the Bulldogs will have the home court advantage through next week’s semifinals.

“We’re all healthy and we have a bench now. It’s nice to have all of our starters back,” said Tracy coach Cat Ebojo-Vaughns.

Senior Briahna Garcia, who was out for most of the season because of an injury, returned for two TCAL matches and was a powerful presence at the net and at the service line in the Bulldogs’ first playoff match.

“You can’t replace Briahna’s talent and leadership on the court. She’s a captain. She’s a four-year varsity player. That adds value to every game we play,” Ebojo-Vaughns said. “It was nice to see them be in a rhythm tonight and aggressive. They’re playing like they want it. It was really refreshing to see.”

Garcia said that Tuesday’s win would help build her team’s enthusiasm for the rest of the playoffs, which will continue Thursday when the Bulldogs host Buhach Colony of Atwater, the No. 8 seed in the Division 2 bracket. The winner of that match will most likely gain entry into the California Interscholastic Federation state tournament.

“We did great as a team and our energy was there. We showed up. We want to be sensational in playoffs,” Garcia said. “I want to keep our energy up as we go through. We just want to take it all the way and show everyone that we can take No. 1.”

The Bulldogs had the advantage over the Rodriguez Mustangs (10-23, 6-6 Monticello Empire League) through most of the night, taking the sweep 25-14, 25-13, 25-11.

Tracy held the lead the entire way through the first set, pulling ahead early with junior Ariel Reynolds at the service line and with shots from junior Natalie Laiolo, who was the Bulldogs’ attacking leader with 11 kills, plus 16 assists. Tracy went up 17-5 with Garcia at the service line and an attack by senior Leila Sardinha before Rodriguez began to match Tracy’s rhythm.

Sardinha started off the second set with a series of service points, but the Rodriguez team was able to match Tracy’s pace until the Bulldogs executed effective attacks, including kill shots by freshman Jianna Palmer and senior Teia Magaoay. Garcia slammed a couple of shots past the Rodriguez defenders, and Laiolo led from the service line for another string of points at the end.

It was only in the third set that Rodriguez was able to take a brief lead early on and then come back again to tie it up. Magaoay led for a series of service points with Sardinha hitting the ball past the Rodriguez front line to give the Bulldogs a substantial lead, and Reynolds closed out the set with a series of service points.

Sardinha finished the night as another of the Bulldogs’ leading attackers with 10 kills, and she had four blocks. Freshman Chloe Lemons also had 10 kills. In her first year in the playoffs, Lemons said she’s ready to make the most of her freshman season, and Tuesday was a good indicator of how the team will do in the championship tournaments.

“I felt that our team was just bringing the will to win. All of us came out with the intensity and the mindset of just making the win and keep pushing,” she said. “My team definitely helped me by encouraging me, like when I shanked a couple of passes, they brought me back up and encouraged me to make the kill.”

Kimball 3, Lathrop 0

The Kimball Jaguars (26-6, 9-3 Valley Oak League) moved past their first-round opponent in the SJS Division 3 playoffs with a 3-0 win at Lathrop High (23-5, 14-0 Western Athletic Conference) on Tuesday.

Kimball won it 25-18, 25-19, 25-20.

Senior Rachel Van Katwyk led the Jaguars’ attack with eight kills, and also had nine digs and two blocks. Senior Madison Rodriguez scored five kills and had four blocks, and junior Samantha Mayer scored four kills and a serving ace and had 15 assists and eight digs. Junior Rein Bocage added three kills and had 24 digs, and junior Nicole Mayer had 14 digs and two aces.

The Jaguars, who are the No. 9 seed in SJS Division 3, will travel to Grass Valley on Thursday to face No. 1 seed Nevada Union in the quarterfinals.

Liberty Ranch 3, Mountain House 2

The Mountain House Mustangs and Liberty Ranch Hawks played a hotly contested match all the way through an extended fifth set Monday in Galt in the play-in match of the SJS Division 3 bracket.

The Hawks won it 25-16, 22-25, 25-22, 21-25, 18-16.

The outcome ended the Mustangs’ season with the team going 15-10 overall and 10-4 in the Western Athletic Conference, good enough for third place in the league.

The Hawks (17-21, 7-3 Sierra Valley Conference) advanced to Tuesday’s first round, where they lost 3-0 to No. 1 seed Nevada Union.

Contact Sports Editor Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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