TEMECULA — The Vista Murrieta girls volleyball team knew its opponent has had a knack for pulling out dramatic five-set victories this season. The Broncos left the door of opportunity open for Temecula Valley, but then slammed it shut just in time.
Temecula Valley had an 18-14 lead in the fourth set Tuesday and appeared headed for its sixth five-setter in Southwestern League play this season. But Vista Murrieta responded with an 11-5 run to close that fourth set and post a 25-19, 25-19, 23-25, 25-23 win.
Vista Murrieta grabbed sole possession of first place with two matches left to play.
“Playing that team in a fifth set is not the kind of dice I want to roll,” Broncos coach Ed Taitano said. “If you give them opportunities, they might find a way to beat you.”
Vista Murrieta’s fourth-set finish was a familiar theme in the match. The opening set was tied at 17, but the Broncos pieced together an 8-2 closing run. Vista Murrieta (17-10, 7-1 in league) used a 9-3 finishing run to take the second set.
“Vista played extremely well in the pressure moments, so give them credit for that.” Temecula Valley coach Dennis Palpallatoc said. “We’ve had some big comebacks, but it’s hard to keep expecting that to happen against the great teams in this league.”
Vista Murrieta pulled out that opening set despite seven errors on the service line. Claire Little and Reka Monteleone combined for 11 kills in the set, including two kills apiece during that decisive 8-2 run. The Broncos also got sterling play from libero Chloe Scheer, who had four digs and a sliding save on the set’s longest rally.
“We have been working at practice on finding ways to win those important rallies,” Scheer said. “They have some big hitters, and you have to be ready at all times.”
One of the big hitters is Emma Rhodes, who had six kills during the second set to help Temecula Valley squeeze out an early lead. Little and Monteleone continued their great play, however, again combining for 11 kills to help Vista Murrieta rally.
Layla Cederlind served up an ace to get the Broncos to set point, and then Scheer delivered the rare libero kill to end things and give Vista Murrieta the two-set lead.
“I think (Vista Murrieta setter) Molly (Wilson) did a tremendous job getting hitters isolated one-on-one,” Palpallatoc said. “I don’t care how strong your blocking is, you’re not going to win very many points when those hitters get isolated like that.”
And yet, blocking was key in Temecula Valley (15-7, 6-2) fighting its way back. Jordon Doiron and Tamiya Wilson were a particularly formidable duo at the net. Doiron finished Tuesday’s match with 8.5 blocks, five of them solo..
Temecula Valley carried that momentum into the fourth set and started to create some distance. Little and Monteleone had different plans, however. Little had two kills to kick-start the final rally, and Monteleone had two more to close the match.
“We just came together as a team at the end of those sets,” Wilson said.
Little and Monteleone finished with 19 and 18 kills, respectively, for Vista Murrieta. Rhodes had 12 kills to lead Temecula Valley, and Gabby McLaughlin added 10.