June 21, 2024

High school volleyball fans are in for quite a treat this weekend when City and Southern Section champions will be crowned across the Southland. There are several compelling finals matchups in store, highlighted by the Southern Section Division 1 clash between Mater Dei and Mira Costa.

The top two seeds meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cerritos College in a rubber match that will decide which team is the best not only in the section but in all of California. Breaking down the matchup by the numbers is too close to call. They have traded the No. 1 spot in the section rankings for the entire season, and given the talent on both sides of the net, a five-set thriller seems imminent.

No. 1 Mater Dei (38-2) has navigated the toughest schedule in the state and is riding a 19-match winning streak since a close loss to eventual champion San Diego Cathedral at the Dave Mohs Tournament on Sept. 9.

The Trinity League champions won the Volleypalooza in Texas in August and avenged a three-set sweep at the hands of Mira Costa with a 2-1 triumph in the gold bracket final of the Durango Classic in Las Vegas on Sept. 23.

The Monarchs are led by senior setter and Durango MVP Julia Kakkis, University of San Diego-bound outside hitter Isabel Clark and Stanford-bound libero Malyssa Cawa. In advancing to the section championship match, they swept through No. 8 Palos Verdes, No. 5 Marymount and No. 4 Sierra Canyon in pool play. They have won 94 of 110 sets played this season.

No. 2 Mira Costa (38-2) has not lost a best-of-five match this season and boasts perhaps the finest setter in the country in University of Wisconsin commit Charlie Fuerbringer, who helped the USA Girls U19 squad capture the FIVB World Championship in Croatia in early August.

Even without her, the Mustangs won the Ann Kang Invitational in Hawaii to begin the season, and in addition to their nonleague victory over Mater Dei on Aug. 29, the Bay League champions have beaten San Diego Cathedral and San Antonio Cornerstone Christian, the No. 1-ranked team in Texas.

They have won 15 straight matches and did not lose a set against No. 7 Los Alamitos, No. 6 Bishop Alemany and No. 3 Huntington Beach in the playoffs behind NYU-bound opposite hitter Chloe Hynes and middle blocker Bryn Shankle, a TCU commit. They have won 96 of 110 sets.

Taylor Yu averages 9.3 kills per set for Southern Section Division 5 finalist Temple City.

Taylor Yu averages 9.3 kills per set for Southern Section Division 5 finalist Temple City.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Another rubber match will occur in Division 2 when JSerra (29-10) faces off against Orange Lutheran (28-13) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Cerritos College. The Trinity League rivals split league meetings with each sweeping on its home court. Paced by senior middle blocker Tatum Johnson (202 kills), JSerra will try to limit the damage by Orange Lutheran’s 6-foot freshman outside hitter Westley Matavao, who pounded 34 kills in six sets versus the Lions.

The Division 5 final between Temple City (17-4) and Rancho Christian (26-7) will feature two of the section’s most versatile players in Rams’ Stanford-bound senior outside hitter Taylor Yu (611 kills, 67 aces, 243 digs) and Eagles junior outside hitter Savannah Thomas (493 kills, 47 aces, 313 digs, 31 blocks). Temple City hosts the match at 6 p.m. Friday looking for its first section title since 2002. Rancho Christian reached the Division 6 semifinals last year.

Two West Valley League teams will play for the City Section Open Division title for the second year in a row, at 8 p.m. Friday at Cal State Northridge. League champion Taft, which lost to Granada Hills in the finals at the same venue last season, is vying for its sixth section crown and first since 2014.

The third-seeded Toreadors (40-10) outlasted No. 2 Venice in the semifinals and will take on No. 4-seeded El Camino Real, which upset top-seeded Palisades in five sets Monday. The Royals (22-8) captured their only City title in 2015. The teams split their two league meetings.

In the City Division I final at 5:30 p.m. at CSUN, Northern League champion Marshall takes on No. 6 Verdugo Hills, the East Valley League runner-up. Marshall (32-12) lost to eventual champion San Pedro in the Division I semifinals while the Dons (19-3) lost to eventual champion Granada Hills in the Open Division quarterfinals last fall. The top-seeded Barristers swept visiting Verdugo Hills 25-14, 27-25, 26-24 in nonleague action Sept. 13.

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