June 21, 2024

The battle of Woodland Hills was decided Friday night inside the Matadome at Cal State Northridge, and after four spirited sets the El Camino Real High girls’ volleyball team claimed not only the City Section Open Division championship, but neighborhood bragging rights to boot.

The Royals beat crosstown rival Taft 25-20, 25-15, 11-25, 25-19 in an All-West Valley League final that ended when senior outside hitter Claire Grasteit hit through a block on the second match point.

“I was so excited,” she said. “We know them really well and they know us but it came down to who wanted it more!”

Third-seeded Taft (40-11) forged a 17-14 advantage in the first set, but the fourth-seeded Royals (23-8) took over from there. They broke open an even second set with a 10-point serving run by freshman setter Addison Choi. The Toreadors closed out the third set on four consecutive kills by senior middle blocker Claire Mussell, the lone starter off last year’s Taft squad that lost to league rival Granada Hills in the finals at the same venue.

It was the first City title with the girls for El Camino Real coach Alyssa Lee — a thrill she never got to experience as an All-City libero at Granada Hills from 2006 to 2008.

“My senior year we lost to in the finals to Palisades and I remember how that felt, so whenever I take a team this far I want to win so they don’t feel what I did,” said Lee, who guided the El Camino Real boys’ team to the title in her first year at the helm in 2016. “Beating Palisades [in the semifinals] was huge because I’ve never won in that gym before and they were the No. 1 seed.”

El Camino Real’s Claire Grasteit lofts the ball over Taft blockers Claire Mussell and Francine Baltazar-Shine.

El Camino Real’s Claire Grasteit lofts the ball over Taft blockers Claire Mussell and Francine Baltazar-Shine in the second set Friday night at Cal State Northridge.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

It was the fourth meeting this season between the schools located five miles apart. They split their two league matches, each winning on the other team’s home court, and El Camino Real beat Taft in pool play Oct. 14 at the Chatsworth Invitational. Taft earned the higher seeding because it finished first in league.

None of the seven playoff matches in the Open Division (four quarterfinals, two semifinals and the final) were sweeps — a testament to how closely matched the top eight teams were.

El Camino Real captured its only other girls’ title in 2015 in its last season under coach Dave Chae.

Longtime USC radio play-by-play man Pete Arbogast and proud 1972 Marshall alum was in the stands to see the Barristers claim their first Division I crown with a 20-25, 25-11, 25-17, 25-13 triumph over Verdugo Hills.

Clover Kirchner pounds one of her match-high 13 kills in Marshall’s four-set victory over Verdugo Hills on Friday at CSUN.

Clover Kirchner pounds one of her match-high 13 kills in Marshall’s four-set victory over Verdugo Hills in the City Section Division I final on Friday at CSUN.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Junior outside hitter Clover Kirchner had 13 kills and sophomore setter Sascha Carmichael had 32 assists and five aces for the No. 1-seeded Barristers (33-12), who lost in the semifinals to eventual champion San Pedro last fall.

Momentum swung Friday on a nine-point serving run — including four aces — by Alana Yoshimura Petreccia in the middle of the second set that gave Marshall a 17-6 lead, and the Northern League champions never looked back.

Sixth-seeded Verdugo Hills (19-4) was unable to avenge a nonleague sweep Sept. 13.

In the first match of the day’s tripleheader, Rancho Dominguez overcame a tentative start to upset Orthopaedic Medical Magnet 20-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-12 in the Division III final. Veronica Lanuza had 12 kills and Veronica De La Cruz added nine for the fifth-seeded Lobos (13-11), the Division V champions in 2019 and Division IV champions in 2020.

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