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Reigning North Bay League-Redwood champion Rancho Cotate is well on its way to defending its league title as the Cougars extended their lead atop the league standings Tuesday with a four-set win over visiting second-place Ukiah, 25-20, 25-14, 23-25, 25-9.

The win gives the Cougars (13-9, 5-0) a game-and-a-half lead over the Wildcats (18-11, 4-2) as league play hits the halfway point.

“It was a good win,” said Rancho Cotate head coach Jeff Bradshaw. “We knew it was going to be a hard-fought match. They’re such a great team and a great young team. We knew it was going to be hard. We studied a lot. I watched film on them all weekend long, we prepared for them. I told the girls, ‘We can’t say that we weren’t ready or we didn’t know’ because we did a lot of preparing for this and I think it paid off.”

Rancho needed to rally with five straight points to pull away in the first set, then took the second set with relative ease. The Cougars ran into some trouble in the third set despite taking a late lead. Holding a 21-17 advantage, and then later a 23-21 advantage, the Cougars couldn’t stop a furious Ukiah comeback as the Wildcats scored the final four points to hand Rancho its first set loss of league play.

“I think we were just a little unfocused, like rambling all over the place and losing control a bit,” said senior libero Kylie Lopes, who had 20 digs on the night. “We just had to calm down, take a breath, needed some timeouts for sure.”

But there would be no further comeback in the fourth set, as Rancho raced out to a 20-7 lead en route to a 25-9 win.

“It just takes so much pressure off us the next time we play them because we’d be tied in league,” said Lopes of beating the second-place Wildcats. “I just feel like we needed this. We honestly had a rough preseason, so I think beating one of our top teams will really help us in the long run.”

Senior outside hitter Taylor Melland had 15 kills to lead Rancho, while junior outside hitter Makenna Ripple added 10 kills and junior setter Abby Johnson had 25 assists.

The loss is the second in a row for the Wildcats, who drop to 18-11 and 4-2 in league. Ukiah was led by sophomore middle hitter Allie Iverson with 13 kills, sophomore libero Anahi Rodriguez with 26 digs and junior middle hitter Eva Baily with 19 assists.

The Wildcats can even the season series against the Cougars at home in their regular-season finale Oct. 20.

“We are a really young team so we have a lot of room to grow, and I think that we’re just going to continue this rivalry with Rancho and beat them when they come to us,” said Ukiah head coach Amanda Brown.

In NBL-Oak action, first-place Windsor nearly went down but pulled out a five-set victory at Cardinal Newman, 26-24, 24-26, 20-25, 25-10, 17-15.

The Jaguars (16-7, 5-0) had five players who recorded double doubles, led by Taylor Boyce (24 kills, 22 digs), Haven Trechter (16 kills, 10 digs) and Emma Smith (28 assists, 15 digs). Brielle Galli nearly joined them with 20 assists and eight digs.

At the halfway point of the league season, Windsor holds a one-game lead over Maria Carrillo, which also won Tuesday night.

The Pumas scored a three-set sweep of Santa Rosa, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18 to improve to 20-5 overall and 4-1 in league. Ailani Murphy had 9 kills with four aces while Sophia Heller added 11 kills and Katie Davis seven kills.

In the North Central League I, Roseland University Prep continued an incredible winning streak as it took down second-place Clear Lake in a dramatic five-set win 21-25, 25-14, 25-18, 21-25, 15-11.

Since RUP (13-6, 12-0) joined the NCL I at the start of last season, the Knights, who won the league title last year, have not lost a single league match and have a set differential of 81-6. Tuesday’s win was not only their sixth straight and snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Cardinals (23-3, 9-2), but moved their overall NCL I record to 28-0.

Girls tennis

Maria Carrillo continued its perfect season on Tuesday with a 7-0 win over Piner. The win moves the Pumas to 11-0 in team match play and 75-2 in individual matches for the year.

In singles, No. 1 Kayla Nguyen won, 6-0, 6-0, Kailyn Shin won at No. 2 6-0, 6-1, Carly Deng took No. 3 6-0, 6-0, and Annie Lee claimed No. 4 6-0, 6-0.

It was more of the same in doubles as No. 1 went to Sebin Park and Caroline Graham 6-0, 6-1, Caroline Huang and Ava McMinn won at No. 2 6-0, 6-0, and Seli Kibom and Paloma Benedetti seized No. 4 6-1, 6-1.

Girls golf

Gabby Sinatra carded a 2-over par 36 at Windsor on Tuesday to lead Cardinal Newman, which shot 207 as a team. Lilly Dayton was second with 40 and Ella Foley third with 41, while Lulu Mazur shot a career-best 49 and Lauren McKeown carded a 60.

Windsor, which was not able to record a team score, was led by McKenna Murphy’s 48 followed by Jojo Robertson’s 50, a career best. Alex Martin added a 58 and Norah Ericsson 64.

At Northwood, Analy’s Payton Bunch shot a 10-over 46 to lead the field and guide the Tigers to a 258-282 win over Ukiah.

Savana Conwell shot a 50 while Gemma Guerra and Kaylynn Malcom each shot 53 and Zoe Anderson had a personal-best 57 to round out Analy’s scoring.

For Ukiah, Lexi Urbina led the way with a 49 followed by Mackenzie Binkely’s 56, Alex Castagna and Ruby Mortimer, who each shot 58. Farrah Parr had a 61.

You can reach Staff Writer Gus Morris at 707-304-9372 or gus.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @JustGusPD.

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