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Ureno powers No. 12 Vaqueros to sweep of No. 10 Pierce

McKenzie Garrison, a freshman middle blocker from Sun Valley, Idaho, had six kills and hit .600. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
McKenzie Garrison, a freshman middle blocker from Sun Valley, Idaho, had six kills and hit .600. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Kaylene Ureno recorded 12 kills and hit .455 on Wednesday night, leading No. 12 SBCC to a 3-0 women's volleyball upset of No. 10 L.A. Pierce. The scores were 25-23, 25-13, 25-23.

The Vaqueros avenged a 3-1 loss on the Brahmas' court in the fourth match of the year. SBCC won its ninth in a row to improve to 11-4. Pierce, the state runner-up the last two years, falls to 10-5.

"Honestly, this feels a little surreal right now," said Ureno, who led the Vaqueros to upsets of the No. 13, 3 and 4 teams last weekend on the way to winning the Brahma Invitational. "I'm really happy we could get this win. We've been working hard all season and everything is starting to come together."

Karissa Mertens added seven kills and four aces. Ureno also had seven digs and four blocks. Setter Kiana Pisula had 25 assists, four kills, four aces and five digs. She made several key dump shots (tapping the ball over on 2nd contact with one hand), including a left-handed backward dump into the front left corner for a point that tied the third set at 22 and squelched a 5-0 run by the Brahmas.

Each team made five serving errors in the opening set. The Vaqueros hit .400 in the first set (13 kills, 3 errors) and .359 for the match, their third-highest hitting percentage of the year.

"I think there were a lot of nerves in the first set," said Ureno, a 5-9 sophomore opposite from Turlock, Calif. "This was an exciting match that we were looking forward to all week.

"My plan for tonight was to tool the block because I knew they'd be blocking line."

The first set was tight throughout with five lead changes and 11 ties. Pisula notched her third ace of the set to tie it 18-18. The Vaqueros took a 22-19 lead on a long serve by Pierce, a kill off the block from Ureno, an ace by Mertens and a kill in the middle by Ureno.

Carolyn Andrulis (4 kills, 9 digs) closed out the 25-23 win with a kill.

Leading 10-7 in the second set, the Vaqueros broke it open with an 11-3 run, capped by an ace from Mertens, a kill through the block by Ureno and a wide spike by Pierce that made it 21-10. McKenzie Garrison (6 kills) secured the 25-13 win on a crosscourt spike.

Ed Gover, the Vaqueros' 27th-year head coach, is a teacher at Santa Barbara Junior High. He missed the match to attend Back-to-School night and assistant coach Dillan Bennett ran the show.

"This is the fourth time I've coached our team this year," noted Bennett. "Coming from being a head coach the last seven years (at Laguna Blanca and Dos Pueblos High), it was a natural fit. When I played here, we never had a crowd like tonight. They were really into it and it was a great atmosphere.

"We made a lot of adjustments for them, particularly on defense and blocking. We made a change from perimeter to rotation defense. We dug a lot more balls tonight, we touched a lot more balls and most importantly, we served lights out."

The Vaqueros erased an early 4-1 deficit in the third set and took an 11-7 lead when Pisula turned around and got a kill on second contact. The Vaqueros went ahead 21-17 on a kill by Ureno. Then the Brahmas got hot with a block, an ace, a tip on an overpass and another ace by Haley Rousselle that gave the visitors a 22-21 advantage.

Pisula made her deft, back-handed dump to tie it at 22 and the Vaqueros got to match point on a double-contact on Pierce and a kill through the block by Mertens. One point later, Ureno pounded a spike down the middle to secure the 3-0 upset.

"Karissa was phenomenal from the service line and did a great job attacking against a big block," said Bennett. "But mostly, we stopped their slide hitter from scoring, which is how they've won a bunch of matches this year.

"With this group, they want to win so badly. They lost to Pierce last year and before the match, I emphasized that this could be the last time we play them unless we meet in the playoffs. The sophomores got excited about that and hit about six balls into the wall. Then we relaxed and played great the rest of the way."

The Vaqueros will host L.A. Mission on Friday at 6 p.m.