Sports

Crusaders clinch league, prepare for the playoffs

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Jose Quezada/HumSport.com – St. Bernard’s sophomore Sabrina Gardner tries to block a shot. Check out HumSport for a wide selection of local sports photography.

By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s girls continued their march through league play on the volleyball court this week, posting a pair of wins over Hoopa Valley and Ferndale to secure the Little 7 title.

 

The Crusaders improved to 7-0 in league play with the two wins, and will now have a home playoff game when the North Coast Section postseason gets under way in two weeks.

It’s been an up and down season for the Crusaders, who had to overcome a tough schedule and several losses early on, although head coach Wendy Joyner believes that’s something that has benefitted her team.

“All of our preseason games were against Big 5 schools, so that was a rough start for us mentally,” said Joyner. “But I think in the long run it helped us out.”

A group of key returning seniors have helped lead the way on this year’s team, with Alyssa Liles, Emily Gardner and Sarah Regli all playing a major role in the team’s success.

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Jose Quezada/HumSport.com – Alyssa Liles has been a key part of the Crusaders’ success this season.

Liles is one the team’s top defensive players, but has been playing front row this season due to a lack of numbers, and the senior standout has adapted well to the new role.

“She’s really stepped it up from last year,” Joyner said. “And Alyssa always has a positive attitude.”

Gardner, who is also a standout basketball player at the school, plays middle blocker and is “just naturally a team leader,” the coach said.

Regli, meanwhile, is the team’s starting setter and one of the Crusaders’ hardest workers, but that’s not the only way she has been helping the team.

“She has a killer serve,” Joyner said. “At practice none of the girls want to face her when she’s serving.

“There’s something different about each of them that I like.”

Joyner has been working double time on the sideline this season, coaching both the varsity and JV teams, a workload that has been made easier to handle because of the players.

“Most of the girls that I have are returners, and that made it a lot easier to coach both teams,” she said.

With the JV season now done, and the NCS playoffs just around the corner, the head coach can focus solely on the varsity squad.

“This year we definitely have athletic returners,” she said. “They work well as a team, and they all get along. Being from a small school, they’re all friends. And they communicate.”

The Crusaders host Southern Trinity in their regular season finale on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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