The Regents overcame two game points en route to a three-game victory over La Salle to win their second consecutive CIF-SS title at Cypress College.
“We knew we had to come together,” senior opposite hitter Jasmine Warmington said. “We knew we had each other’s backs and we knew the front line had to swing away because our defense would be there to pick us up. We came together as a team.”
St. Lucy’s scored a 25-18, 30-28, 31-29 win in their final CIF-SS game. Both teams will be playing in the CIF State playoffs on Tuesday.
“It’s almost surreal,” senior setter Jackie Macy said of the title.
“I almost had to pinch myself to make sure it was true. We knew we could win it no matter what and we kept pushing as a team.”
The Lancers had three game points in the second game, but the Regents rallied and closed out the game for a 2-0 lead. They had four chances to close out the third game, only for the Regents to close out the match.
“Our girls just won the points they had to win and that was the difference,” St. Lucy’s coach Sean Douglas said. “I have great kids. They are never down. They never quit, even when it was (game) point. It didn’t matter. They wanted the ball.”
St. Lucy’s, which swept La Salle in the semifinals last year and then defeated the Lancers in three easy games in September, had little trouble closing out La Salle in the first game. The Lancers committed 12 unforced errors in the game.
“I think all the emotion and nerves were going on and once we started playing it began going back and forth,” La Salle coach Tiare Tuitama said. “The fact is it’s St. Lucy’s. They’ve always been a good, tough team and it is somewhat emotional playing them. But the girls need to keep their heads up and the fact that we came this far, stepped foot on this court, it’s a big deal. You learn from it.”
That slow La Salle start changed midway through the second game.
“La Salle played phenomenally,” Douglas said. “They made great adjustments to our game, we adjusted to their game. Both teams played great.”
St. Lucy’s got out to an 8-3 lead, but the Lancers found their momentum and took the lead for the first time in the match at 18-17. Katrina Palffy, who had seven kills, scored on a dump shot and Jessica Kenney’s ace gave the Lancers a 23-19 lead. The Regents, behind a Veronica LaPierre block and an Arden Davis ace, closed to within 23-22. A Palffy kill gave the Lancers their first game point.
“It’s tough to close them out,” Palffy said. “What got to us was that it was the fact it was St. Lucy’s. We’ve played them before, they’ve beaten us before. We just couldn’t put it together.”
Warmington then had one of her game-high 13 kills and Marissa Hageman’s block to tie it at 24.
La Salle had game point at 28-27, but St. Lucy’s scored the next three points to take the game and a 2-0 lead.
La Salle led most of the third game and had an eye on extending the match to four games with a 24-22 lead on a Haley DeSales kill. But the Regents responded again.
Three consecutive points gave St. Lucy’s match point at 26-25. The Regents had match point at 27-26 and 29-28. When it was tied at 29, La Salle’s setter went to the floor when her left ankle buckled and the pass went errant.
The Regents had their title, again, when the Lancers touched the net on a pass.
Warmington and Macy said playing in the finals was a big help.
“It definitely was a factor,” Warmington said. “We knew what to expect. We knew we would get it done. Sometimes we have highs and we had to pick each other up to stay high.”
A lot more is at stake than a shake of the hands. It will be played in front of hundreds of fans at Cypress College at 7 p.m. The winner will receive a CIF-Southern Section championship trophy and a guaranteed berth in the CIF State playoffs.
“It will absolutely be a different game,” St. Lucy’s coach Sean Douglas said. “Our girls know that. They are not even thinking about that game.”
Based on that match three months ago, it would hardly seem likely that the two teams would be playing for the Division 2AA championship. When they played in September, the Regents were coming off the division title. La Salle was still, surprisingly, smarting from that three-game semifinal loss to St. Lucy’s last year. Plus, they were still adjusting to Tuitama, who has been with the program since July.
“We were still thinking about that semifinal match from last year,” Tuitama said. “We did not have our rotations down yet either.”
Even though St. Lucy’s swept, Douglas said he saw something in the Lancers.
“You could see it in them,” he recalled. “They just hadn’t clicked.”
Two weeks and four matches later, Tuitama said she began seeing the results. It happened at the Hilltop tournament in Chula Vista, which the Lancers won.
“We just began to play mentally the right way,” she said. “They always had it in them physically, but not mentally.”
La Salle then won the Marlborough tournament the following weekend, and went 8-1 the rest of the season, going undefeated to win the Del Rey League title and losing only six games, including a 3-0 nonleague loss to Notre Dame Academy down the stretch.
“We’ve had a surge of confidence,” Tuitama said. “We’ll be ready this time.”
St. Lucy’s has not lost a five-game match in a month and went 8-2 to win the Sierra League title.
“I’ve told the girls it’s about creating a legacy,” Douglas said. “They can win championships and play very good volleyball.”
Both coaches admit they are very similar. The are both tall with powerful middle blockers. They each have go-to players, but can rely on nearly any player on the floor.
“The key will be defense,” Douglas said. “Whoever plays great defense will prevail.”