WATSONVILLE — Oh how the tables have turned.
When the Widcatz last met the Hollister Haybalers there was little doubt who the better team was.
This time around the Hayblers were not going to be denied.
They took down the Watsonville Wildcatz in three straight dominant sets, 25-19, 25-22, 25-22, to stop their undefeated run through the Monterey Bay League and earn a share of the league title.
“Last time we faced them,” said Watsonville head coach Derrick Moore, “we were mentally tougher than them. Today they came into this game with everything on the line and played a good game.”
Armando Torres led all Wildcatz with 14 kills, as they struggled to score points offensively against the tall Hollister front line.
“Our offense wasn’t on through the entire game,” said Moore. “We weren’t hitting the ball very well, and we weren’t putting the ball down. Nothing was happening for us offensively. Our defense was great like always, but there’s only so much that will do.”
The Haybalers had a different hop in their step and played with a sense of urgency from the star of the game.
After they pummeled the Wildcatz in the first two sets, it was do-or-die in the third and boy did it have that feeling.
The set was tied 12 times, and the lead changed hands five times.
With the Wildcatz up 19-18 late in the set they set Torres for a kill, but he was denied at the peak of his shot and he landed on his backside as the Haybalers knotted the score up.
Hollister threw away a chance at gaining the lead with a serve that overshot the court and that momentum powered Watsonville to a 3-0 run to go up 22-19.
It looked like the Wildcatz were going to force a set four, but from out of nowhere the Haybalers went on a 5-0 run to get them within one point of winning.
It was the Catz’s final chance and they set up Torres once again, but his hammer landed way out of bounds and the Haybalers and their fans erupted.
Ivan Mendez finished the game with 25 assists and Claudio Martinez had 30 digs.
The Wildcatz will host a home CCS playoff game on Tuesday at Watsonville High. Their opponent is yet to be announced.
“I’m not focused on whether or not we’ll win CCS,” said Moore. “I’m focused on making sure that they end their season in a way that they want to. I don’t want any regrets.”
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