May 19, 2024

One point from victory, Annika Anderson took a deep breath before serving, then let it go.

Thinking it was long, two defenders hesitated to play the ball but it bounced a foot inside the line, and the Marymount girls’ volleyball team stymied a furious comeback by Sierra Canyon to prevail 25-23, 25-23, 16-25, 22-25, 15-12, in the first round of pool play in the Southern Section Division I playoffs Wednesday night in Chatsworth.

“The plan was to serve to Area 1 every time and nail that spot, because that’s where they’re the most vulnerable,” said Anderson, a 5-foot-6 senior setter and defensive specialist committed to Johns Hopkins. “When no one touched it, I thought it can’t be out, I didn’t hit it that hard!”

Marymount, seeded fifth out of eight teams in the tournament, avenged its two Mission League sweeps at the hands of the No. 4 Trailblazers, who learned that defending the championship often is tougher than winning it.

“Before the fifth set we huddled and reminded each other how hard we’ve worked to get to this point — we decided to leave it all on the court,” Anderson said. “It was more mental preparation going into this match, having lost to them twice, but we had a good week of practice eliminating little things we get stuck with.”

Sierra Canyon (33-6), which defeated Mira Costa to win the CIF crown last fall, suffered its first defeat in a best-of-five match all season and its first loss to in-state competition. Its previous five losses were in out-of-state tournaments.

Marymount had early leads in each of the first two sets, but Sierra Canyon rallied to tie them at 23 before the Sailors closed both out on kills by 5-10 senior outside hitter Kate Martin. The Trailblazers fought back to level it behind the serving of 6-foot senior opposite Halie McGinest and the hitting of 6-2 senior outside hitter Danica Rach.

The Sailors (27-10), who had lost five of the previous six encounters with Sierra Canyon, will try to slay another giant when they travel to top-seeded Mater Dei in the second round of pool play Tuesday at 6 p.m. Sierra Canyon will host No. 8 Palos Verdes (which lost to Mater Dei on Wednesday) in the other Pool A matchup.

“We had a really good serving strategy tonight, but the players still have to go out and execute and they did,” Marymount coach Cari Klein said. “We have excellent senior leadership on this team and that’s what pulled us through.”

In Pool B, No. 2 Mira Costa swept No. 7 Los Alamitos and No. 3 Huntington Beach swept No. 6 Bishop Alemany.

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