With a little frustration and a lot of power, Nicolette Pinkney reeled back, let loose and nearly ripped the leather off the ball.
The powerful senior outside hitter’s kill slammed to the floor late in the third set, bringing Granite Bay High School’s home crowd to a roar and propelling the Grizzlies to a 25-23, 25-8, 29-27 sweep of St. Francis in the CIF Northern California Regional Division I championship match.
“I was just frustrated, with myself,” said Pinkney, who led all players with 13 kills. “I wanted this win so badly.”
The point tied the third set 24-24 and kept a St. Francis rally at bay.
Granite Bay is headed to the program’s first state title match. The Grizzlies (44-0) are an amazing 110-5 in sets this season. The Grizzlies have beaten the Troubadours four times, including another straight-set win in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I final two weeks ago.
“It’s crazy. It’s like a dream come true,” Granite Bay senior setter Taylor Nelson said. “It’s been one of my goals since I was a freshman.”
Led by Nelson’s precision passing (33 assists) and the power of Pinkney and fellow senior Maddy Deters (eight kills), the trio endured losing to St. Francis in the section and NorCal finals last season.
“After what happened last year, it was difficult for us,” Pinkney said. “We couldn’t let that happen again.”
Granite Bay will play Southern California power Los Alamitos in the state final at 8 p.m. Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.
Soaking in the moment, Granite Bay first-year coach Tricia Plummer realized it wouldn’t hit her until later this week that her squad has the opportunity to become the first D-I state champion in section history.
“It’s really exciting. It’s a little surreal right now,” she said.
St. Francis, led by seven seniors who signed letters of intent to play volleyball in college, are tied with St. Mary’s of Stockton with 12 section titles and won the D-III state title in 2005.
But every time the Troubadours rallied Tuesday, including taking a 27-26 lead in the third set behind seniors Lea Felton, Anna Baytosh and Ali Koumelis, Granite Bay fired back.
“I want to wish Granite Bay the best of luck,” St. Francis coach Alynn Wright said. “Of any team this year, they are a team that could do it. We wish them the best of luck.”
The big three of Deters, Nelson and Pinkney garnered much of the attention for Granite Bay this season. But a strong supporting cast that includes senior Cally Chamberlain, juniors Brooke Hershberger (eight kills) and Libby Deters (12 digs) and sophomore Brigid Bell (nine kills) have helped pace the Grizzlies during an amazing run.
Contact Trevor Horn at email@example.com and on Twitter @trevhorn.