Sacred Heart Prep grad Denise Sheldon has seen, coached and competed at every level of volleyball, including the Olympic level as a member of the staff of Team USA in Rio. Wednesday night still had to be something special.
In her debut as coach at Menlo College, the Oaks made it a special day by winning two matches at the William Jessup Invitational in Rocklin, beating Bethel-Indiana, 25-17, 25-16, 25-21, and then taking care of St. Katherine, 25-11, 25-15, 25-22.
Menlo (2-0) plays Life Pacific College and Antelope Valley on Thursday.
The Oaks needed to make a few early adjustments to out-maneuver the Pilots, who flew to a 10-8 advantage in the first set. That's when Sierra Buscher took over the wheel and skied to land four consecutive kills during a 6-0 run, landing Menlo a lead it never relinquished.
The Pilots managed to maintain their flight pattern, drawing within 17-16 at one point. Buscher and Kenzie Carpenter crashed the Bethel party, helping Menlo score eight of the final nine points. Carpenter landed a pair of service aces for the final two points to put the set on ice.
In the second set, a pair of kills from Bailey Gamez and Moea Kekauoha gave the Oaks a 12-8 lead at the midway point. Maggie McDonald chipped in with three kills to extend the lead to 18-13. Another kill from Buscher put a bow on the nicely-wrapped second set.
The Oaks never trailed in the third set as Monica Hruby helped serve up a quick 6-0 edge. Bethel closed to within 20-18 but a McDonald kill and a pair of Jade Rockwood aces gave the Oaks match point. The honor went to Emily Sunada, with a kill for the win.
The Oaks came back against St. Katherine, which had played twice on the day, to score 16 of the final 17 points in the first set to chill off the Firebirds.
In the second set, Rockwood's serving helped the Oaks snap an 11-all tie. Lucyanna Herrera got in on the action, tallying a pair of service aces, and suddenly the Oaks were up 21-12 before a timeout. Kills from McDonald and Carpenter sealed the set,.
St. Katherine was oh-so-close to pulling away with a victory in the third set but the Oaks impressed again in come-from-behind fashion. Menlo trailed 10-3 and 20-12.
Monica Hruby went back to serve and scored four straight points. St. Katherine still led 22-18 before Menlo fired off the final seven points of the set.