What: CIF State Volleyball Championships
Where: At UC Irvine
When: Saturday, Dec. 6
First-time finalists: Homestead (Division I North), La Costa Canyon (D1 South), Redlands East Valley (D2 South), Cathedral Catholic (D3 South), Tri-City Christian (D5 South).
Combined championship match records of other finalist: Mitty (D2 North, 6-4), Sacred Heart Cathedral (D3 North, 0-2), Christian Brothers (D4 North, 0-1), Santa Fe Christian (D4 South, 3-2), Castilleja (D5 North, 0-2).
MaxPreps nationally-ranked (top 100) teams: 1. La Costa Canyon; 3. Archbishop Mitty; 6. Redlands East Valley; 32. Sacred Heart Cathedral; 35. Cathedral Catholic; 75. Christian Brothers.
Prepvolleyball.com nationally-ranked (top 100) teams: 2. La Costa Canyon; 3. Mitty; 23. Redlands East Valley.
Live audio internet broadcasts: www.KBCsports.com
Stay tuned: For updated results throughout Saturday
Regional championship roundup: Click here.
By Mitch Stephens
IRVINE, Calif. – In some respects, this may be the most exciting CIF State Volleyball Championships ever.
Five teams have never been here before and four of the five divisions are guaranteed to have a new champion – only Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach) in D4 girls, is here to defend its title.
New blood injects new life.
But the reality is that the massive and powerful Southern Section reworked its divisional framework – not in alignment with the CIF, the state’s governing board. Thus, some deserving teams that likely would have challenged for state berths, such as Brentwood-Los Angeles (D5) and Loyola-Marymount (D4), were ousted in larger divisions.
There’s a very real chance that the Southern Section, which has dominated these championships, won’t have a champion for the first time since the state playoffs which began 25 years ago.
Redlands East Valley (Redlands) is the Southern Section’s only hope and it is a slight underdog to perennial Northern California power Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) in the D2 title match.
Six Southern Sections squads among the MaxPreps Top 50 nationally did not advance to state: Long Beach Wilson (No. 9), Santa Margarita (No. 11), Mira Costa (No. 18), Santa Barbara (No. 19), Orange Lutheran (No. 37) and Los Alamitos (No. 49).
“Make no mistake; it’s a very good year for San Diego Section volleyball. … very good,” said John Tawa, the preeminent national authority on girls high school volleyball. “But I think it’s safe to say they wouldn’t have four representatives here under Southern Section’s alignment from a year ago.”
Tawa, who is founder, editor and writer of prepvolleyball.com, has 15 California teams among his top 100. But only three of those made the state finals: La Costa Canyon (No. 2), Mitty (No. 3) and Redlands East Valley (No. 23).
That said, the matches might very well be more competitive than year’s past.
Here are the matchups and times at the Bren Center on the campus of UC Irvine.
Homestead (Cupertino) 30-8 vs. La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 36-1, 7 p.m.
As fantastic a season as Homestead has had with Oregon-bound attacker Katherine Fischer (661 kills), La Costa Canyon is just about unbeatable, according to Tawa. He said the Mavericks are a win away from winning a national championship.
“There’s a calm about this team that no one can match,” he said. “Watch if any game gets to be 21-21. They’ll rise to another level. This team is truly devoid of ego and just finds a way to win.”
It helps to have one of the nation’s top junior setters in Kendall Polan, USC-bound outside hitter Katie Fuller and numerous other weapons like Princeton-bound Lydia Rudnick and Natalie Hagglund.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 41-1 vs. Redlands East Valley (Redlands) 38-1, 5 p.m.
This should be a dream offensive matchup as both teams are blessed with loads of weapons. Mitty, making its sixth straight final, matching the state mark also held by West Catholic Athletic League rival St. Francis, last won in 2004. The Monarchs lost the last three state finals to two-time mythical national champion Mira Costa but just because the Mustangs are out of the field, don’t expect Mitty to relax. Redlands features one of the top sophomores in the country in Krista Vansant and 6-4 bruiser Tori Brummett to go along with setter Johnna Fouch. The team is poised and battle tested with 10 returning starters.
Mitty counters with just a bushel of hard hitters, led by Rachel Williams, along with Moran O’Neil, Kristina Graven and Taylor Smith. The key to the team’s season, however, has been the improvement and toughness of Joan Caloiaro. The Monarchs, whose only loss was to La Costa Canyon late in September, has the slight nod in this one according to Tawa.
“As far as offensive star power, this should be the best match of the day,” Tawa said.
S. Heart Cathedral (S. Francisco) 34-9 vs. Cathedral Cath. (San Diego) 33-4, 2 p.m.
Talent wise, this is pretty one-sided, though Sacred Heart Cathedral hears that all the time. Other than super athlete, senior middle hitter and St. Mary’s-bound Gabrielle Jolly, the Irish won’t wow you in many ways. But under superb coach Margi Beima, Sacred Heart Cathedral will be making its third state appearance in five years. Nicole Nap is another superb all-around player for the Irish and first-year setter Fiona Lee, Sacred Heart emerged from the rugged WCAL.
“Sacred Heart has an intangible quality that could carry them all the way,” Tawa said.
The two teams squared off in the Mitty tournament earlier this year with Cathedral winning a close match in four. The Dons are loaded with firepower, led by middle Taylor Milton, outside Kelly Reeves, a national team player, and Lexi Williamson who had a game-high 17 kills in the regional title match. Setter Rachel Oemcke is one of the best in Southern California. Coach Kelly Drobeck, who has led the Dons to 10 section titles in 11 years, looks for win No. 300.
Tawa believes talent wins over the intangibles and picks Cathedral in four games.
Christ. Brothers (Sacramento) 34-7 vs. Santa Fe Christ. (Solana Beach) 31-6, noon
Tawa sees this as the closest match of the day, but with the defending champs prevailing in five.
Don’t count Christian Brothers out, considering all the adversity its been through. Injuries to setter Kelly Pelz and attacker Erika Cuevas pushed the team well back but when they got healthy to go along with middle Kayla Neto, the team rolled. Led by first-year coach Jeff Deter, the Falcons had to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win its regional final over Ripon, their ninth straight win.
Santa Fe Christian avenged a loss to The Bishop’s in the San Diego Section championship and now looks to win its fourth straight title. The Eagles are led by senior setter Taylor Johnson and big-time hitters Kristin Miller and 6-3 Victoria Adelhelm.
Castilleja (Palo Alto) 17-16 vs. Tri-City Christian (Vista) 23-14, 10 a.m.
With 30 losses between them, this doesn’t look like much. But the storylines are compelling. Tri-City coach Kristen Hurst told Tawa all season her team would get to state, which looked unlikely through numerous losses.
“But here they are,” Tawa said. “And they’ll probably win it too.”
The Eagles are led by outside hitters Mira Ramirez, Victoria Rodriguez, Joy Reineke, Taylor Mehl and Brittany Thompson. Setter Taylor Mehl runs the show.
Castilleja, making its third state appearance after losing in 2005 and 2006, feature three big hitters in Adrienne Drefus, Taylor Docter and Erin McLaughlin. The trio combined for 34 kills in its regional final victory.
E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com.