By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
CYPRESS – Pasadena Poly’s Michelle Miller couldn’t help but turn to her coach and smile over the final play of the match.
Her return hit the net and ended the match and gave Chadwick a 25-14, 25-15, 13-25, 25-19 victory in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA girls volleyball championship match Saturday at Cypress College.
Miller said she smiled not only because the match was over but because it showed how much the team had grown this season.
Pasadena Poly (19-7) can take solace in Saturday’s appearance. This was a team not many expected to be in the final, since it started two freshmen and will return eight underclassmen.
There was a sense of optimism throughout the squad, largely in part because the players know what they’re capable of.
“I personally didn’t expect us to be here in the finals,” Miller said. “But now that we’re here and we have a young group, we feel not coming here next year will be a disappointment.”
Pasadena Poly also can take solace in the fact it ended Mayfield’s 36-game league winning streak earlier this season. Pasadena Poly also defeated Mayfield in the semifinals to advance.
Poly, however, was knocked out of state playoff contention because Firebaugh defeated San Gabriel Academy in the Division 5A final.
Saturday marked the fifth consecutive year in which a Prep League team has won a division title. Westridge won a championship before Mayfield won three consecutive.
Chadwick (27-0) won its first volleyball title since 1999 and the first for Dolphins coach Michael Cass, who guided his team to a league title and No. 1 seed.
Chadwick, which had beaten Pasadena Poly in two league meetings this year, strung together two 5-0 runs in the first set and ended it with Corinne Hemmersbach’s ace.
Pasadena Poly started the second set with an 8-1 lead, but Chadwick tied it 10-10 before reeling off a 6-0 run to take a 16-10 lead it did not relinquish. Chadwick again clinched the set on an ace, courtesy of Elizabeth Yates.
“We didn’t lose,” Pasadena Poly coach Steve Beerman said. “They won. We didn’t serve well until we got into game three.”
Pasadena Poly’s strength this season has been its serving, but the Panthers didn’t find their rhythm until the third set.
“It wasn’t just serving aces,” Beerman said. “It was also about just making it tough for them. We were serving right at them and weren’t making them move.”
Sophomore Cat Davidson showed exactly why the Panthers are dangerous. She had a key block to give Pasadena Poly a 17-11 lead and then reeled off seven consecutive aces to swell the Panthers’ lead to 24-11. Davidson’s eighth attempt hit the net, but she got an ovation from the Pasadena Poly student section for her performance.
“That’s the character of our team,” Beerman said. “We started playing a little better.”
“The great thing about playing teams you know is you know what to expect,” Cass said. “You know what they’re capable of doing. We went up 2-0, and that was great. We started playing well, but then they started doing that, too, and we had lost the first two sets in the semifinals, so we know what teams were capable of doing.”
Pasadena Poly made adjustments throughout the match that Cass quickly noticed.
“They took away our dump,” he said. “Our setter dumps so well through the middle that they’ve seen it now for two matches, so they camped a girl in the middle.
“We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel right there and then, so what we tried to do was just make it tough for them.”
The fourth set saw nine ties before Chadwick took control, courtesy of a 3-0 run sparked by a Yates service ace that gave the Dolphins a 17-14 lead. Pasadena Poly called a timeout.
“We had an awesome run,” Miller said. “It was fun to beat Mayfield and to have our crowd come to all our games. It was inspiring, and we hope to come back next year.”