By John Philip Wyllie
For Bonita Vista Baron fans, the scenario is all too familiar. The Barons glide through their Mesa League competition and capture a league title only to be eliminated early in the CIF playoffs by some North County school.
Tuesday night’s match-up between the Bonita Vista Girls Volleyball Team and the one from Rancho Buena Vista provided the potential for just that type of scenario. But thanks to the heroics of outside hitter Cristi Alvarez and a handful of her teammates, the Barons advanced for the first time in several years into the second round of the playoffs to face powerhouse La Costa Canyon last night. This time is was the Longhorns that faced the somber ride home and the painful thoughts of what might have been.
Cristi has been solid as a rock all season,” said winning coach Dan Neiman. “She has been our hardest hitter and as a junior is learning how to be a leader. Without her passing, without her hitting, and without her defense we don’t win this game tonight.”
After taking a commanding two game lead, the Barons lost their focus in game three. When the Longhorns then knotted the score at two games a piece in game four what initially appeared to be an easy Baron victory turned into a tooth and nail struggle. That is when Alvarez and teammates like Roxy Brunsting (25 kills 25 assists) Lailanie Gonzalez (22 kills) Melinda Fuimaono (six blocks) Mariah Gearhart and the aforementioned Alvarez stepped up and gutted out a hard-fought victory.
“Cristi has a lot of volleyball experience and she knows what to do with the ball. She played varsity volleyball as a freshman and (in the prep off-season) she plays for a high level club team,” Neiman said.
“We played our hearts out tonight and I am really proud of our team,” Alvarez said moments after the victory. “It was an amazing feeling to win that last game.”
While college is still a couple years away, Alvarez would like to continue playing volleyball once her Baron career comes to an end. Equally adept in the classroom as she is on the court, Alvarez sports a 3.7 G.P.A and is leaning toward a degree in business. Her thoughts for the moment however, are more on volleyball and on savoring Tuesday night’s success. Perhaps her friend and mentor said it best.
“Every time we play these North County schools, we just want to prove ourselves, prove that we can compete,” said Brunsting, the Barons 2005 Mesa League Player of the Year. “This is what we have waited for all season.”