Championship teams are built around unselfish players such as Lexi Haynes.
The senior reserve for Rocklin High School did what she said was her “first instinct.”
Before the Thunder warmed up for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship match at UC Davis on Nov. 21, senior starter Megan Richwine realized a player’s worst thought. She had misplaced her jersey. Richwine said she panicked, broke down in tears and was told by coach Dave Muscarella that she wouldn’t be able to play.
“We don’t take jerseys away from other players,” Muscarella explained.
Heartbroken, Richwine, a four-year varsity player for Rocklin, was certain she would sit on the bench instead of help her team compete for the program’s second section title since 2010.
Minutes before play started, Haynes told Muscarella she would give her No. 12 jersey to Richwine. The two players hugged and cried. And for Richwine, these were tears of joy.
“To have a teammate that is willing, as a senior, to give up her jersey in a section championship is the most outstanding and honorable person that you can be teammates with,” Richwine said. “To have someone sacrifice that means the world to me.”
The Thunder beat Vintage of Napa 3-1 for the program’s third section title overall. Richwine had three kills, three aces and six digs in the title match.
“She’s a great player for our team,” Haynes said. “I know if we didn’t have her, the result of the match may not have ended the way we wanted. I knew immediately that it was the right thing to do.”
Rocklin lost 3-1 to defending D-II state champion Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the second round of the Northern California Regionals on Saturday, but the Thunder still felt victorious, thanks to a lingering act of sportsmanship.
Muscarella named Haynes the captain for the two regional playoff matches. And for the first time in more than two decades as a coach, he presented a game ball to Haynes because of her actions off the court.
“I’m not sure I would’ve been able to do that when I was a high school kid,” Muscarella said of surrendering a jersey. “It was awesome.”
Haynes’ younger sister, Maddie, a sophomore middle hitter who led Rocklin with 308 kills this season, said her sister’s selfless act was inspiring.
“We have 16 other girls who could have done that,” Maddie Haynes said. “It means a lot. She’s a hero to our team and to me.”
Granite Bay (43-0) beat St. Francis 3-0 in the section final at UCD. The Grizzlies defeated Palo Alto 3-0, and St. Francis topped Homestead of Cupertino 3-1 on Saturday in the NorCal semifinals.
The Grizzlies are the lone undefeated D-I team in the state. Santiago-Corona (39-0) in the Southern California D-II bracket is the other unbeaten team in California.
Tuesday’s NorCal final will be the fourth meeting between Granite Bay and St. Francis this season. The Grizzlies beat the Troubadours 3-1 in a foundation match in September and 2-1 at the Super 8 Invitational at St. Francis in November. Tuesday’s winner will advance to the state championship match on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in Orange at 8 p.m. No section team has won a D-I state title.
Bradshaw Christian lost to Branson-Ross 3-0 in the NorCal D-V semifinals. The Pride was the section D-V runner-up to Turlock Christian.
Northern California Finals
(All matches at 7 p.m.)
• No. 2 St. Francis at No. 1 Granite Bay
• No. 3 Los Altos at No. 1 Archbishop Mitty-San Jose
• No. 2 Sacred Heart-S.F. at No. 1 Valley Christian-San Jose
• No. 2 Sonora at No. 1 Menlo-Atherton
• No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame-Alameda at No. 1 Branson-Ross