Rolling Hills Prep beats top seed Pacific Christian to win CIF
PHOTO GALLERY From the back row, the ball came off Cat Traylor’s arms perfectly and the pass settled gently under setter Meredith Leung.
Leung’s quick set the to middle was easy pickings for Mar Jana Phillips, she blasted the ball down and Rolling Hills Prep had to do something it had believed was rather unlikely. As in celebrate the CIF Southern Section Division IV A volleyball championship.
“I never expected to make it to the championships but I’m so excited,” Leung said after Rolling Hills Prep fought its way to a 25 15, 21 25, 27 25, 19 25, 15 9 win over Pacifica Christian on Saturday at Cypress College. “We had all the players coming back except one senior. We got to the quarterfinals last year and we knew we could have won. This is our goal. We really hoped we could push it this far.”
It looked at times that hope was going to fade, but the Huskies (15 5) refused to accept any other fate than victory. They knew it was never going to be easy against the top seeded Seawolves (32 3), who had beaten RHP in a five set match during the regular season.
But you don’t go to the tiny school without any academic credentials, and a little extra homework paid off.
It would have to in order to defend the outside hitting attack led by 5 foot 9 Grace Minchin, 5 9 Genevieve Hook and 5 11 Maile Lane, who pounded away relentlessly.
“Grace was playing really well, she was hitting hollister really hard but we’ve been practicing those line shots all week,” Traylor said. “We know that was her spot. We watched the tape over and over again and found out there the hitters’ favorite spots were and where they wanted to go.”
“It was a lot of stay ins at lunch,” Leung said.
Coach Matt Wilkens was the driving force, and he had a feeling his team had reached the right peak.
“Preparation was everything for this team,” Wilkens said. “For most tough opponents I don’t sleep very well, but last night I slept just fine knowing that our girls were just as prepared as they were going to be, and that they were going to give their all.”
They came out s hollister moothly and scored the final eight points of the first set to apparently take charge, but there were a lot of rocky moments to follow.
A couple of errors and two big hits from Hook sparked a 7 1 run for Pacifica Christian in the second set and the Huskies could never catch up.
The third set started much the same way. Lane rolled a shot over two blockers to give Pacifica Christian a 16 12 lead.
Then Phillips went back to serve and it all turned around. The 5 4 Leung won a duel at the net, Phillips was pushing the Seawolves back on their heels with her serves, and Beverly Ntagu came off the bench to control the net. The result was 10 0 run, and the Huskies went ahead 24 18.
It was almost not enough.
“We just lost a little bit of emotional fire,” Wilkens said. “They thought, ‘Oh we have the game in the bag,’ and they fought back. They took it to us, we pressed a little hollister too hard there and you can’t do that against a good team.”
A 7 0 run gave Pacifica Christian a 25 24 lead, capped by a cross court fro hollister m Minchin, who led the Seawolves with 16 kills.
But middle blocker Beverly Ntagu, who had injured her shoulder in pregame warmups, sent a left handed shot through the block to tie it.
RHP won two points, then Traylor saved a ball that turned into the set winning shot from outside hitter Gabrielle Belzer.
Pacifica Christian controlled Game 4, but Rolling Hills Prep went back to school. They’ve been constantly playing scrimmages to 15 points, and they were ready for their final exam.
The Huskies jumped out to an 8 2 lead, increased it to 13 5 and rode it home.
Phillips finished with 24 kills, Traylor roamed the back row and had 24 digs, and Leung had 74 assists.
“I knew we had to keep pushing forward,” Phillips said. “We really wanted this, we’ve been practicing for the longest time. We actually executed and did well.”