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College of the Canyons women's volleyball vs. Feather River College at the 2021 CCCAA State Championship Tourney.

Canyons' Cinderella Season Ends at State Championship Tourney

Release by Robert Lewis, CCCAA/CCCWVCA State Championship SID

CCCAA State Quarterfinals
Match #4
N1 Feather River d. S4 Canyons, 25-22, 25-11, 25-18
Canyons finishes the tourney tied for 5th place

FRESNO — Feather River College, the state's No. 1-ranked team, completed an incredible day of sweeps as all four NorCal seeds eliminated the four South seeds for the first time in the 44-year history of the CCCAA Women's Volleyball Championship. On Friday night, the Golden Eagles won their 23rd straight match, taking out South #4 seed College of the Canyons to create an All-North semifinals on Saturday at Fresno City College.

The only other time that one region occupied the top four places at a state tournament was in 1978 when the South's Orange Coast, El Camino, Golden West and Glendale performed the feat.

On Saturday, arguably the state's top two teams will get together for the late semifinals match at 5 p.m. as Feather River (32-1) takes on #3 seed Fresno City. The first semifinal at 2 p.m. features North #4 American River v. North #2 West Valley. The championship final is set for Sunday at 2 p.m.

After a first set in which Canyons, the original #15 seed and feel-good story after three South Regional playoff victories, played FRC tough, Feather River found its mojo and raced to a 14-point win in set 2 and then controlled most of the final set.

In the opening set, a Jacqueline Ibarra kill gave the Cougars an 11-6 lead. After Ibarra knocked down another kill at 17-12, Feather River fought back with Sydnee Rowe crushing two kills (she was 5-for-5 in the set) as the match was tied at 17-17. COC regained the advantage at 20-18 but Feather River resembled the Flying Wallendas as they seemed to jump higher and higher with Callie Muniz burying two kills and All-American Courtney Oilar destroying two others for points. Oilar crushed one more kill for good measure to close out the 3-point, first set triumph. 

In the second set, it was showtime for the Golden Eagles as Nellie Stevenson served a 6-0 run. When Carissa Chainey served a pair of aces, FRC's lead was up to 14-4. The Golden Eagles were never threatened in a 14-point victory.

Canyons wouldn't let Feather River run away fast in the third. COC tied it 8-8, but again the Golden Eagles started working on their vertical leaps and it resulted in a 15-4 run. COC had one last hurrah as it fought off an impressive five match points, including two kills by Damani Harvey. The 5-0 run and the match ended with Oilar getting a touch on a kill.

Oilar scored 12 kills in only 17 attacks (.588) as the only player who had double digits in kills for either team. Rowe added eight kills (11 attempts, .636), Lelaau Molia Tuia six kills and Muniz 5 kills and three aces. Chainey had three kills, five set assists, three aces, and six digs. Feather River hit .351 as a team.

"This is the most athletic team I've ever had here," said Feather River head coach Sarah Ritchie. "We have solid pieces everywhere and at every position. I think we shook out the nervous energy and starting playing our brand of volleyball over the final two sets. I feel like we have some really good North teams this year and Fresno City, West Valley and American River all are playing extremely well. It's a big accomplishment for the North to win four like we did."

Canyons (16-11) was paced by Damani Harvey with nine kills and Caitlin Liebe's six kills. 

COC head coach Clay Timmons reflected on the Cougars improbable playoff run.

"I'm happy first for our coaching staff because we knew we were good, but we had to convince the players of that," he said. "They started to understand when we beat Ventura in the last regular season match that we had something special going on. It was a really inspiring run to get to state and the players believed and cared for one another to get as far as we did."

—Photos courtesy of CCCAA