Royal girls volleyball captures Canyon League title with comeback win over Simi Valley

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SIMI VALLEY — Fans in the Royal crowd were hoisting lanyards and key rings, jingling their car keys for the Simi Valley faithful to see.

It was a signal for the Pioneers to head home, and Beatrice Gamboa-Estrella was the one to send them out. Gamboa-Estrella, the lone senior on the team, knocked down a kill to the left side to win the match — and earn Royal its second straight Coastal Canyon League title.

“It felt so good,” Gamboa-Estrella said. “We played the most as a team, we played so together. It didn’t feel like we were down, ever. We just kept going up and our energy is what carried us through this match.”

The Highlanders won the five-set thriller in comeback fashion (15-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-23, 15-12) after trailing two sets to won in a high-stakes crosstown rivalry match that would determine the league champion.

Royal’s only league loss was to Simi Valley, and the Pioneers’ fell to Camarillo.

“There was so much pressure coming into that match,” Royal coach Kristine Connolly said. “And it being senior night and we have our one senior and I just really wanted that win for her.”

Royal wins the fifth set, 15-12, to secure the Coastal Canyon League title.

If you hear jingling in the background, that’s just the Royal crowd dangling their car keys as a signal for Simi Valley to go home. pic.twitter.com/1jMwR163iO

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) October 13, 2022

Simi Valley (17-8 overall, 6-2 in Coastal Canyon League) rushed to an eight-point lead in the first set while Royal (22-5, 7-1) struggled to settle in and find consistent hitting. Alesia Thomas won the set with a kill and later aced a serve to get the Pioneers a win in the third set.

Thomas, a transfer from Sierra Canyon, led Simi Valley with 16 digs and added 10 kills.

“She’s a player that has a work ethic like no other,” coach Samantha Crane said. “She wants it, she has a passion for it. She just reads the game a bit differently and has a whip for an arm.”

Simi Valley was on its way to putting the match away in the fourth set, leading by three points, but Royal went on a late five-point run to force a fifth set.

Simi Valley takes a 2-1 lead in the match with a 26-24 win in the third set on this ace by Alesia Thomas. pic.twitter.com/fYDgbGlQKd

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) October 13, 2022

Not only did Gamboa-Estrella finish off the match, she also received all the attention on senior night. “Bea Squad” signs were plastered around the gym and players even wore t-shirts with the same message during warm-ups along with accompanying bee antennae headbands.

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It was a completely different scene from the atmosphere at the end of the night, which featured car keys, dueling student sections and a few tears from Connolly afterwards.