Warrior spikers win pool, reach finals of Firebird Classic – Dahlke tournament MVP, three other Warriors also all-tournament

Fallbrook High School’s volleyball team began the Firebird Classic tournament September 20-21 at Pacific Ridge High School by winning its pool, and the Warriors reached the tournament finals before a loss to Calvin Christian.

Although the Warriors finished as the runner-up, Fallbrook High School outside hitter Kendra Dahlke was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and the all-tournament team also included outside hitter Sarah Grantham, middle blocker Brooke Bishop, and setter Jessi Fagrell.

Last year Fallbrook played in tournaments on consecutive weekends, resulting in the Warriors contesting 16 matches over a 12-day period. Fallbrook will still compete in this year’s ASICS Challenge tournament Oct. 11-12, but coach Robin Reese replaced October’s Southern California Invitational tournament on this year’s schedule with the Firebird Classic.

The Firebird Classic is considered less competitive than the Southern California Invitational, although Reese has higher priorities than strength-of-schedule considerations for playoff seeding and a potentially weaker field has advantages other than win-loss record. One advantage is the ability of reserves to gain competitive experience. “Everybody got to play, which is really good,” Reese said. “Everybody got a good amount of playing time, so that was great.”

That also allowed Fallbrook’s starters to rest during the seven-match tournament.

Teams must guard against playing to a lower level against a weaker opponent, so the Firebird Classic also tested Fallbrook in that aspect. “The girls did not do that,” Reese said. “I think this was a good tournament for us to play at our level no matter what team we faced.”

The three pool play matches took place Sept. 20. Fallbrook opened with a 25-12, 25-9 victory over Liberty Charter and then defeated High Tech High in 25-9 and 25-11 games. The Warriors then had a more formidable opponent in Oceanside but prevailed in the 25-23, 25-19 match. “Oceanside was a good team,” Reese said.

The Saturday competition began with a one-game seeding match. Fallbrook defeated Calvin Christian by a 25-15 score.

Fallbrook’s first elimination match was a 25-9, 25-14 victory over Escondido Charter which gave the Warrior reserves considerable playing time. “They did well. Everybody went in, did a good job,” Reese said.

The Warriors advanced to the finals with a 25-15, 25-16 semifinal victory against Classical Academy.

The match in the finals was the third of the year between Fallbrook and Calvin Christian. The season-opening San Diego Fall Classic included a Sept. 7 elimination match in which Fallbrook posted 27-25 and 25-10 wins over the Crusaders. “Calvin Christian is a good team,” Reese said.

The Crusaders won the tournament by taking 25-15 and 25-21 games. “They figured us out,” Reese said. “They were ready for us.”

The Warriors actually played eight matches during that week; the Warriors’ first non-tournament contest of the season was a three-game victory Sept. 18 against Mission Vista. The 25-19, 25-22, 26-24 match included the Warriors overcoming a 14-5 deficit in the third game. “That was great to watch. They were not going to give in,” Reese said.

Fallbrook also trailed by a 23-19 score in that game. “That just shows you the character of these girls,” Reese said of the comeback.

Dahlke led the Warriors with 16 kills against the Timberwolves. Bishop had seven kills with no hitting errors. “That’s the most success out of a middle blocker we’ve had probably in the last two years,” Reese said.

Opposite hitter Beverly Barnes-Smith added five kills, Grantham contributed three kills, and middle blocker Danielle LeVan recorded two kills. Fallbrook’s libero, Ellen Allison, led the Warriors with 30 digs while Dahlke had 21 digs; defensive specialist Shannon Wright recorded 15 digs, and Grantham was responsible for seven digs. Allison and Wright shared the team lead with three serving aces. Bishop recorded five blocks while LeVan had two blocks. Fagrell provided 31 assists.

The win over Mission Vista, along with the 6-1 tournament result, gave Fallbrook an 11-3 season record following the tournament.

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