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Syracuse volleyball beats Fremont to win Region 1 title

By Bob Judson - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 19, 2021
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Syracuse High's Mikelle Neilson (12, center) receives the ball as teammates, from left, Tehana Mo'o, Kambree Rodriguez, Kallie Johansen and Andie Thomas look on during a match against Fremont on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Syracuse High's Kambree Rodriguez serves the ball in a match against Fremont on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Fremont High's Maggie Mendelson serves the ball in a match against Syracuse on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Syracuse High's Kambree Rodriguez receives the ball in a match against Fremont on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Fremont's Keysha McKean strikes the volleyball in a match against Syracuse on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Fremont High's Keysha McKean digs a ball in a match against Syracuse on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Syracuse High's Mikelle Neilson hits the volleyball in a match against Fremont on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Syracuse High's Tehana Mo'o receives a ball in a match against Fremont on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.
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Fremont High's Ayva Cebollero (4) sets up Maggie Mendelson (1) for a swing in a match against Syracuse on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Syracuse High School.

SYRACUSE — “Talk to Hailee (Garcia),” Syracuse coach Corrie Vigil said after the Titans’ 3-1 volleyball victory Tuesday over Fremont. “She runs the show.”

Senior setter captain Garcia provided the motor with 42 assists, seven digs and six aces, as the Titans rolled over Fremont 25-21, 23-25, 25-10, 25-18.

“I’m out here ready to play, ready to lead this team and kind of guide them throughout the process,” Garcia said. “I know we need somebody to step up and if I’m the one to do it, great. We have a good system here.”

Syracuse (21-2, 10-0 Region 1) remained undefeated in league play, swept the season series with the Silverwolves (15-11, 7-3) and, in the process, unseated Fremont as defending region champions.

“The past two years we have placed second, just falling short to Fremont every year, but beat them in the first round this year,” Garcia said. “We came into this game fired up. I wanted to play my best game for my teammates so we could go for that region title; I just played my hardest.”

Syracuse trailed 13-7 in the opening set, went on a 7-0 streak to tie it up, and finished with an 18-7 run overall to go up 1-nil.

“I think there were a little bit of jitters in that first set. We were nervous coming in, and it showed on the court with the score,” Garcia said. “We took that time out and said, let’s reset. We came back, fought, took that lead and continued to play well the rest of the way to pull it out.”

But Fremont wasn’t going to give up its crown without a fight, closing out the second set on a 9-4 run to tie the match at 1-1.

Syracuse dominated the third set, going on a 14-0 blitz midway through and closed it out with a kill by Tehana Mo’o, one of 10 she had on the afternoon.

“Our coach gave us a talk; told us to keep our momentum going,” Garcia said. “We kind of all came together and said we’re winning this game. We made some awesome hustle plays and fought to the end. Energy has a lot to do with it; which team has more grit, more drive and I think we really had that in the last two sets.”

Although the final set was competitive, Syracuse gradually built its lead throughout and won comfortably.

Outside hitter Andie Thomas also had a big game for the Titans, pounding 22 kills and going deep for 11 digs.

Fremont’s plans for the remaining two region games is to try and incorporate star Maggie Mendelson into the team after her whirlwind summer of playing for the national volleyball and basketball squads.

“What a great opportunity for her, but we’ve had to try and restart our team two times if you think about it, and are still working out the kinks,” Fremont coach Alise Bowles said. “We’re trying to figure out team chemistry, what rotation works and what players jive well together. It’s my job as a coach to figure it out.

“It’s a team sport, not like basketball or soccer; everyone has to contribute. After you touch it once, another teammate has to touch the ball. Whatever you do, have a purpose and do it well.”

Senior setter Ayva Cebollero had a huge game for the Silverwolves with 31 assists, 24 digs, two blocks and an ace. Captain Ally Cook chipped in with 17 digs.

In the final two region games, both teams still have things to work on. As Garcia noted the Titans go back to work Friday at practice.

“We’re totally focused on our next game, Clearfield. We want to pull out those wins and prepare for state in two weeks,” she said.

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