Volleyball parting is bittersweet sorrow

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Breaking up is always hard to do for Dave Muscarella. Doing so Saturday night was even more difficult, given all that his Rocklin High School girls volleyball team accomplished this season. Muscarella bid farewell to five seniors after the Thunder’s 25-22, 25-22, 25-23 loss to St. Francis of Mountain View in the Northern California semifinals. Rocklin finished with a 42-4 record. “We knew (top-seeded St. Francis) was going to be a very good team, but I didn’t know what we were going to run into,” Muscarella said. “We were a better team than I thought we were.” Rocklin gave St. Francis all it could handle, taking each game down to the wire. That was especially true in the third game, when the Thunder trailed 23-17 and refused to throw in the towel. But as Rocklin did to so many opponents, St. Francis was at its best when it was put to the test. Muscarella took pride in his players “turning it on when they needed to.” St. Francis did the same. As a result, St. Francis became the first team to beat Rocklin this season in a best-of-five match. The Thunder had not lost since Oct. 2, when it finished 3-2 in the Christian Brothers tournament. Rocklin responded with a 14-match winning streak. A new standard has been set by seniors Allison Judd, Olivia Lane, Lauren Orozco, Ashleigh Reisig and Jill Wirt. Their 10 teammates will have a tough act to follow when they return next season. “We had an exceptionally good group of seniors as far as leadership goes,” Muscarella said. “As a group, the seniors were more demanding of the whole team to perform and get it done.” Each and every goal Muscarella set for his talented team this season was achieved. The first was to win the Sierra Foothill League championship. The second was to go 10-0 in SFL matches. The third was to bring home the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title. Rocklin got that done Nov. 18 by beating El Camino at UC Davis. The section banner was the Thunder’s first since 1997. Muscarella turned to the crowd after the win against El Camino and pumped his fists in the air. The Thunder reached the section finals in 2007 and 2009 only to fall short on each occasion. “There was a lot of relief in those arms going up,” Muscarella said. On Saturday night, Muscarella saved his emotion for the five seniors who meant so much to his squad. “Throughout the year, you don’t get a chance to tell them all the things you want to say to them,” Muscarella said. “It’s always a sad day because it’s the last time they’re going to play for you.” Lane and Judd spent three seasons with Muscarella. Orozco was promoted in 2008 from the junior varsity for the playoffs. Wirt’s departure will leave big shoes to fill as she was the setter.