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Petaluma bounces back to top Sonoma Valley

Petaluma rallied in the final set on Thursday to hold off Sonoma Valley, 3-2, in an early battle between two of the top volleyball teams in the Sonoma County League.

The T-Girls were forced into a fifth set by the defending champion Dragons before emerging with a 15-10 win to narrowly put the important match away.

The first meeting between the two clubs turned out to be a tale of split sets. Petaluma breezed to a 2-0 lead only to be overhauled by the patient Dragons who won convincingly down the stretch to even things at 2-2.

Petaluma got some inspired play at the middle of the net from senior hitter Grace Ghiradelli, who combined blocks with key kills as the T-Girls breezed to 25-19 and 25-22 wins in the first two sets. Petaluma appeared to be headed to a surprisingly quick night of work by leading most of the way in both sets. Clean blocks by Ghiradelli helped the home club dominate the early going.

The veteran Dragons were not ready to pack their travel bags, however. Sonoma began to find holes in the T-Girl defense, and the visitors rushed to a convincing 15-8 lead before Petaluma coach Ryan Hughes was forced to call a timeout.

The T-Girls got a great placement by Kayla Pearson and a kill by Jaden Krist, and closed the gap to 19-15 before the roof caved in with a 5-point run by Sonoma Valley. Sonoma won the third set going away, 25-16.

Sonoma Valley wasn’t done. The Dragons caught the T-Girls in a major funk with a series of good placement shots with Petaluma players out of position. The Dragons stretched a 19-16 advantage into a commanding 5-point lead before putting the T-Girls away, 25-22, and it got a little tense in the Petaluma gym with the fifth set ready to decide the match.

“What was up with that,” asked Petaluma coach Hughes. “We looked like we were sleepwalking. It was up to our captains at that point. There is quite a bit that you could say in volleyball terms, but the players have to pull themselves out of that kind of sluggish play. The seniors took over because they really wanted it.”

With senior Claire Tusher leading the way with a series of well-placed serves, the T-Girls climbed off the deck to take a 12-7 lead that completely reversed the Dragon momentum. A dink and a kill by Ghiradelli helped Petaluma pull away.

Sonoma called a couple of timeouts, but a sizzling kill by junior Hannah Dillingham helped Petaluma maintain the advantage. Dillingham put the final point away and the T-Girls had the victory.

It was an important win for the T-Girls, but there is still much work to do in the SCL with dangerous Analy waiting in the wings and a difficult return match against Sonoma Valley later in October. Petaluma cannot afford to stumble along the way.

The Trojans improved to 3-0 in the SCL and 9-1 overall after they captured the Nor-Cal Tournament in Novato the previous weekend.

Sonoma fell to 2-1 in league and 4-3 for the season. Gigi Girish turned in a good effort for the Dragons.

Ghiradelli and Krist led the way against Sonoma with 14 kills each. Tuscher had a solid defensive game, while Pearson proved to be consistent throughout the match.

Sonoma Valley captured the JV match 2-0.