CIF State Regional Volleyball Championships
North winners: Homestead (D1), Mitty (D2), Sacred Heart Cathedral (D3), Christian Brothers (D4), Castilleja (D5).
South winners: La Costa Canyon (D1), Redlands East Valley (D2), Cathedral Catholic (D3), Santa Fe Christian (D4), Tri-City Christian (D5).
Below: See all scores and details of each match.
Friday: State Championship previews.
Saturday: Reports, photos and video on all five state championship matches from Irvine.
By Mitch Stephens
STOCKTON, Calif. – It was symbolic really.
On its way to the CIF Northern California Division III championship match against St. Mary’s (Stockton), Sacred Heart Cathedral’s girls volleyball team from San Francisco got stuck — on the insanely dense Bay Bridge.
The team bus stalled. For almost an hour.
“It was a little scary,” said senior setter Fiona Lee. “Some of the girls are nervous going over bridges any way.”
But this was par for the Irish’s trying course. The defending Northern California champs have had a number of setbacks, starting right at the beginning when their starting sophomore setter, who emerged late last season and led the Irish into the postseason, couldn’t come out for the team.
Then injuries struck. Lee missed most of the rugged West Catholic Athletic League playoffs with a twisted ankle. High-flying and St. Mary’s College-bound Gabrielle Jolly turned her ankle and missed Central Coast Section playoff action.
“You know when teams jell right away or throughout the season? This one didn’t,” Sacred Heart coach Margi Beima said. “We had injuries and setbacks and lineup changes. It was a lot of hard work by every one. But everyone handled the changes and adversity to get here.”
Including the two-hour bus ride to Stockton — that turned into three. Another bus eventually picked up the Irish, who were ready and raring to go.
“We just got dressed on the bus, did our hair and had our team meeting,” Jolly said. “We said let’s just be ready when we step off the bus and dominate.”
That they did.
The third-seeded Irish advanced to their third state-title match in five years with a surprisingly easy 25-21, 25-3, 25-22 sweep over the top-seeded Rams at Chavez High.
The Irish (34-9) rallied from a first-game deficit, was nearly perfect in the second and just cruised in the third while getting big matches from Jolly (13 kills, 13 digs, seven blocks), Nicole Yap (eight kills, 17 digs, four aces), Brittany Rozzano (10 kills) and first-year setter Lee (36 assists).
“We were on tonight, (St. Mary’s) seemed a little rattled and we just never let up,” Beima said. “Considering all we’ve been through this year and the bus ordeal, I couldn’t be prouder of this group. Hopefully the third time will be charm.”
Sacred Heart will look for its first state title 2 p.m. Saturday at UC Irvine against Southern California champion Cathedral Catholic-San Diego Cathedral Catholic, the top seed, defeated second seed Brentwood-Los Angeles 25-12, 25-21, 25-12.
It was the second straight year the Irish knocked off St. Mary’s (32-6) in the NorCal finals. The St. Mary’s College-bound Jolly had a career-high 27 kills in last year’s four-game victory.
On Tuesday, the Irish spread the wealth.
“The best thing about our team is we’re a very calm team,” Jolly said. “We don’t lose our composure.”
They were down most of the first game, the last time 19-18, but after one of eight St. Mary’s service errors, Rozzano put down a kill starting a four-service run by Lee. Down the stretch, the Irish got kills from MacKenzie Murtagh, Yap and a game-winner by Colleen Conefrey.
St. Mary’s, which won its 12th Sac-Joaquin Section championship last month and eliminated Sacred Heart Cathedral in 2006, never recovered from the first-game loss.
“We just weren’t ourselves,” said St. Mary’s coach Angela McShane, a former standout for the Rams and player at Washington State and Pacific. “The service errors in the first game were uncharacteristic and inexcusable. That’s a game we should have had and then from there, who knows.”
The Rams got eight kills from Jacueline Ahloo, five each from Ariel Bryant and Priscilla Ezeji and four each by Holland Van Noate and Lauren Kissell.
The second game was one of the most lopsided in NorCal finals history and started with 10 straight service points by Yap, four of them coming via an ace. Lorina Louie then rattled off 10 in a row as well and the Irish were off to a 20-1 lead.
“It was like, `s this really happening?’ “ Lee said. “We just didn’t make any errors and they seemed a little off. It just all worked out for us. Hopefully it will be like that on Saturday.”
Said Jolly: “St. Mary’s has a lot of firepower and we thought they’d come out hard because we beat them last year. But we just executed a little better. And we communicated very well.”
When Sacred Heart Cathedral raced to leads of 5-0, 8-2 and 10-3 in the third it looked like this might be done in a hurry, but the Rams eventually got their game back thanks to a pair of kills from Bryant.
They closed to within a point three times, the last time at 20-19, but down the stretch the Irish got all the tough points, including key kills from Jolly, Conefrey and two by Rozzano.
On match point, Yap and Isabella Firpo each went up and both seemed to make contact of the final kill on the right sideline, a fitting team effort.
“We’ve handled a lot of things this season,” Beima said. “The girls just handled this match tonight. It doesn’t matter who scores the points or how we get them. It’s been a true team effort, that’s for sure.”
Other Regional throughout the state.
No. 1 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) d. Brentwood (Los Angeles) 25-12, 25-21, 25-12
Santa Clara-bound Lexi Williamson had 17 kills including the match-winner leading Central Catholic Cathedral (33-4) to victory. It’s the first Southern California title for the Dons, who have captured 12 Section crowns. See story.
No. 3 Homestead (Cupertino) d. Napa 25-21, 25-15, 25-14
Katherine Fischer dominated with 27 kills and Tori Carroll added eight kills as Homestead (30-8) reached its first state final in any sport. See story.
No. 2 La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) d. No. 1 Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita) 27-25, 25-23, 25-16
La Costa Canyon (36-1) avenged its only defeat and advanced to its first state finals as Lydia Rudnick had 13 kills and Katie Fuller and Natalie Loos combined for 18 kills. See story.
No. 1 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) d. Mountain View 25-15, 25-20, 25-19
Mitty won its 11th Northern California championship and sixth in a row behind Rachel Williams (13 kills, 10 digs), Kristina Graven (12 kills) and Joan Caloiaro (36 assists). Mountain View, which lost to Mitty in the Central Coast Section finals, got 18 kills from Megan McConnell. See story.
No. 1 Redlands East Valley d. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) 25-17, 25-15, 25-13.
Krista Vasant had 12 kills, Tori Brummett 10 kills and Johnna Fouch 33 assists, leading Redlands East Valley to a surprising sweep against Corona del Mar which got nine kills from Claire Ham and 25 assists by Madie Smith. See story.
No. 2 Christian Brothers (Sacramento) d. Ripon 19-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-8.
Erika Cuevas had a match-high 21 kills as Christian Brothers made a remarkable comeback to win its second Northern California championship. See story.
Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach) d. No. 1 The Bishop’s School (La Jolla) 27-25, 25-11, 25-19
Taylor Johnson had 25 assists and Kristin Miller 10 kills as Santa Fe Christian (31-6) avenged its San Diego Section championship match loss and will now try to repeat as state champion. Carly Bollert and Thea Derrough had nine kills apiece for The Bishop’s School. See story.
Castilleja (Palo Alto) d. No. 1 St. Francis (Watsonville) 25-14, 25-20, 25-13.
Taylor Docter and Adrienne Dreyfus had 12 kills each and Erin McLaughlin added 10 as Castilleja (17-16) avenged a CCS championship defeat to St. Francis with a sweep. See story.
No. 1 Tri-City Christian (Vista) d. No. 3 Coast Union (Cambria) 27-29, 25-15, 25-20, 25-22
Tri-City Christian (23-14) overcame a 20-13 fourth-game deficit and got 16 kills from Miranda Ramirez and 26 assists from Taylor Mehl to win its first Southern California crown. See story.
Statistics from the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, San Diego Union-Tribune and Press-Enterprise were used in this report.