By Clay Fowler, Staff Writer
Of the five times Sean Douglas thought his team had lost Thursday night, the St. Lucy’s Priory volleyball coach was the most certain when his libero, Arianna Sifuentes, dove over her team’s bench to save a ball with St. Lucy’s trailing 20-19 in the fifth game. Of the five times Douglas thought his team had won, the only time he was certain came two points later, when Veronica LaPierre’s kill bounced off the hands of a Chino Hills blocker out of bounds to put an end to No. 1 St. Lucy’s five-game marathon of a victory over their Sierra League foe in a rematch of last season’s CIF-SS championship match.
After defeating the third-ranked Huskies 25-21, 21-25, 23-25, 25-19, 22-20, St. Lucy’s has defeated Chino Hills in the last three meetings between the Inland Valley volleyball giants.
The Regents (12-3, 3-0) outlasted Chino Hills (14-3, 2-1) in their final regular-season meeting last year to split and earn a share of the Sierra League title, only for the two to meet again in the CIF-SS Division 2AA final, where St. Lucy’s prevailed again.
If their first meeting this season was any indication, this year could be even more intense.
“I love playing them and I hate playing them,” Douglas said. “It’s always a big game and they always come to play. Chino Hills is so tough and those girls never gave up, and they deserve credit for that. We just managed to pull this one out.”
Sophomore LaPierre led St. Lucy’s with 18 kills and senior Jasmine Warmington came on late to finish with 11 kills, eight of which came in the final two games.
Chino Hills, which got 29 kills combined from the senior duo of Karly Shockey and Heather Trueman, appeared to have won on Shockey’s final swing, but Sifuentes managed to run down the deflected spike before it landed in the stands, allowing St. Lucy’s to extend the point while several Chino Hills team members celebrated an apparent end to the match.
“That’s still a playable area,” Douglas said. “I think they thought there was no way she was going to get to that ball.”
St. Lucy’s won the next two points on kills by LaPierre over a stunned Chino Hills.
“She was leaning over the bench, so I thought she was out of play,” Chino Hills coach Dana Buzzerio said. “They called us out of play earlier in the game on a similar play. We were celebrating the win, and that’s a hard thing to regain focus after that.”
After losing the first eight points of the match and consequently a close first game, Chino Hills was locked in while winning the second and third games. The Huskies claimed the pivotal third game 25-23 when a contested ball at the net that landed out of bounds was ruled to have been touched by St. Lucy’s.
The Regents finally regained momentum in the fourth game thanks to a resurgence by Warmington, a veteran of the CIF championship team, and steady setter Jackie Macy. St. Lucy’s built a 20-11 lead on the way to a 25-19 Game 4 victory.
“They had done a good job of getting in the way of Jasmine,” Douglas said, “but she finally found her groove in the fourth game and really caught fire.”
The teams were never separated by more than two points in the fifth game.