A key game of the 2022 girls’ volleyball season took place Tuesday night at home for the Healdsburg Greyhounds, as they faced off against Rancho Cotate for the league lead with just a week left in the season.
Healdsburg girls’ volleyball lost the match, 3-0.
Going into the game, the Cougars from Rancho sported a 6-0 league record and the Greyhounds were a notch behind at 5-1. A win against Rancho would have been a big boost for a team that hasn’t always played up to their full potential, but has developed over the season into a true contender.
“I think they’ve got used to playing as a unit, and they’ve done a really good job of it—especially as we are going down the stretch,” said Coach Richard Mitts, leading the team for his inaugural season with Healdsburg.
The Greyhound girls are a different team than they were just a year ago. They ended the 2021 season with a 3-5 league record, 4-14 overall. This year, they are 6-1 in the league, and 15-8 overall, with most of their losses coming against bigger schools.
The two teams last met on Sept. 22, at Rancho, and the Cougars stiffed the Greyhounds with a 3-0 result. So far, that’s the only league loss for the Greyhound girls, who have defeated all other North Bay Redwood opponents since the season began on Sept. 20.
Those wins included 3-0 shutouts of their previous three opponents—Elsie Allen, Piner and St. Vincent—and a 3-1 victory over St. Vincent in Petaluma on Sept. 27. Their only league loss was the one against Rancho Cotate.
Rancho Cotate is a Division III team, which means the school is slightly larger than the Division IV Healdsburg. Bigger schools have the inherent advantage of a larger student body to fill out the roster, but leagues like the North Bay Redwood mix school sizes based on location, in this case west Sonoma County.
While the previous meeting with Rancho did not go Healdsburg’s way, Mitts says the home field advantage and the team’s current momentum should help the Hounds score a crucial win this time, but the results tell the story.
Truthfully not all the wins have been easy. The Greyhounds defeated Ukiah, a team with a 5-2 league record to date, on Sept. 29, but with a 3-2 score. Those were tight sets—scores were 25-20, 19-25, 24-26, 29-27, with Healdsburg winning the fifth and deciding set 17-15.
“Getting that big Ukiah win showed us, let’s not give up, we can win,” said Mitts. The first two sets had the Greyhounds down 2-1, and the coach said that although some of the girls were pretty discouraged at that point, they fought back to win the last two sets and take the match. “It was pretty insane, I got to admit.”
Tellingly, Ukiah is in Division II, two full divisions higher than Healdsburg. Which makes their meetings definitely unequal, and that Healdsburg is competitive with a school that much larger is to their credit. So next week’s Oct. 18 match with Ukiah could ultimately decide the league title—it takes place on Ukiah’s home courts, and there’s always a home field advantage to contend with.
It’s quite likely that next year the North Bay Redwood and other regional leagues will be restructured, so like-versus-like in size will prevail. Details of that restructuring may not come until mid-2023.
The season’s final game (prior to the conference post-season) will be Oct. 20 at home against Elsie Allen. It’s senior night, so show up to East Gym to give a cheer of thanks and support to Emery Joy, Lizette Gomes and Theresa Helfrick for their school careers and their college futures.