South City’s Fong digs what she does

If you’re looking for a reason as to why the South San Francisco girls’ volleyball program has seen such a resurgence this year, look no further than senior setter Sabrina Fong’s performance in Thursday’s win over Terra Nova.

Fong absolutely dazzled in Game 2 of a 24-26, 25-14, 25-13, 25-15 win, South City’s 10th of the year in Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division play. With the Warriors trailing after a Game 1 loss, Fong sparked a Game 2 performance with her leave-it-all-on-the-court play.

The fourth-year varsity starter gave South City its first lead of the game with an unlikely save on a dive to the front corner, getting just enough to roll the ball over the net for a pivotal point to go up 3-2. She later held the back line with three straight saves on blazing Terra Nova spikes to up the Warriors lead to 12-9.

And Fong’s most sizzling play was a quick sprint to middle from backcourt to save a rally and an eventual 18-11 lead with an all-out dive.

“If the ball hits the floor, you hit the floor,” said Fong, who is averaging better than 30 assists a match this year.

That pretty much sums up the tenacity that has reinvigorated a South City team that went just 4-8 in league play a season ago. And the one who has reined it in is first-year coach Saga Vae.

Vae is a calm center of the Warriors’ universe, but has instilled a winning attitude that was synonymous with the program under San Mateo County Sports Hall Of Fame coach Ann Stoluka. Before her retirement in 2005, Stoluka led the team to 25 Central Coast Section playoff berths and two section championships.

So it’s been an impressively quick turnaround for Vae, a first-year coach who wasn’t hired until the end of summer after interviewing for the frosh-soph head-coaching position.

“Instead of a growing year, he really focused on just winning,” Fong said.

The only thorn in South City’s side thus far this season has been first-place San Mateo (24-5, 14-0), which toppled the Warriors in four games Tuesday to end South City’s eight-match winning streak. The team can earn its first CCS berth since 2002 with a strong finish, however, a destination Vae has promoted since Day 1 in practice.

And as South City has improved, that old playoff drive has returned to the school.

“Now I’m walking through campus and they’re saying: ‘Hey, coach. How does CCS look?’” Vae said.

A strong junior contingent that includes Siao Malepeai and Annie Tam should give South City a strong returning team for next season, not that the Warriors have closed the book on what should be an exciting finish to Fong’s varsity career this year.

Said fellow team captain Malepeai of the approach she and Fong have: “As much as we expect from this team, we expect much more from us.”

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