May 27, 2024

Nobody in the gym at Cerritos College could have anticipated a sweep in the Southern Section Division 1 girls’ volleyball championship match Saturday night. Not the fans, not the coaches and probably not even the Mater Dei High players.

However, the Monarchs put on a nearly flawless display that surprised even themselves in a 28-26, 25-15, 25-20 victory over Mira Costa in a showdown between the top two ranked teams in the state.

Mater Dei had a 24-20 lead in the first set but the Mustangs won four straight points to tie it, the last on a ball that hit the net cord before dropping on the Monarchs’ side. Cymarah Gordon’s stuff block on Audrey Flanagan gave the Monarchs a 27-26 lead and they finally won the set on their seventh try.

The Monarchs took a 6-1 lead in the second set and never looked back, taking a two-set lead on a hitting error by Rachel Moglia.

The second-seeded Mustangs (38-3) played with desperation to open the third set, taking a 5-2 lead. However, top-seeded Mater Dei (39-2) pulled even at 9-9 and took the lead for good, 14-13, on a kill by Clark. Malyssa Cawa punctuated the Monarchs’ stunning performance with an ace on match point.

“We prepared well, we came out ready to go, we played as a team and we wanted it really bad,” said sophomore outside hitter Layli Ostovar, who receives plenty of encouragement and advice from older sisters — twins Ayva (a setter) and Kayla (a defensive specialist). “Every match we played was leading up to this and we felt confident even though we know they’re a good team.”

Mater Dei’s Isabel Clark tries to block a tip attempt by Mira Costa's Bryn Shankle on Saturday night.

Mater Dei’s Isabel Clark tries to block a tip attempt by Mira Costa’s Bryn Shankle in the Southern Section Division 1 final on Saturday night.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Mater Dei completed one of the most impressive runs in postseason history, not dropping a set in four matches in the highest playoff division. The Monarchs won their first section title since 2018 and handed Mira Costa its first loss in a best-of-five match.

University of San Diego-bound senior outside hitter Isabel Clark had 18 kills and 12 digs as the No. 1 Monarchs finished with 12 blocks — seven by freshman middle blocker Emma Kingston. Mater Dei avenged a three-set defeat in Manhattan Beach on Aug. 29 and improved to 2-1 this fall versus the No. 2 Mustangs, having prevailed in their previous encounter Sept. 23 in the gold bracket final of the Durango Classic in Las Vegas.

“Having seen them twice already the girls knew what to expect,” coach Dan O’Dell said. “Some of their players have tendencies and I told my team if you do what you should you’ll have success. Of course, that’s easier said than done. This might have been the best we’ve been at blocking all year.”

Mater Dei has won 20 matches in a row since a close loss to eventual champion San Diego Cathedral at the Dave Mohs Tournament on Sept. 9. Mira Costa was vying for its first section title since 2007.

“I recognized at the start of the year that this group had the potential to be special,” O’Dell said. “The girls knew what they wanted to accomplish and worked hard every practice to make it happen.”

The teams could meet for a fourth time in the Southern California Regional final Nov. 14. The Open Division brackets will be released Sunday, with play beginning Wednesday.

Mira Costa senior setter and University of Wisconsin commit Charlie Fuerbringer hopes that happens.

“Right now we’re decompressing but in a few days we’ll be focusing on that goal for sure,” she said after receiving a hug from Clark. “There were some errors and transition plays we should’ve made but they played their hearts out.”

Division 2: JSerra swept Orange Lutheran 25-22, 25-23, 25-17 to claim its first section title in its first finals appearance.

Senior outside hitter Tatum Johnson had 10 kills, sophomore middle blocker Emma Champagne finished with eight kills and five blocks, senior opposite hitter Reese Brown added seven kills and senior defensive specialist Payton Mossbarger had 19 digs for the Lions (30-10) in a rubber match against their Trinity League rivals.

“Honestly, we were a little worried coming into this match because last time we played them we got crushed,” Champagne said, referring to JSerra’s 25-18, 25-23, 25-18 loss at Orange Lutheran on Sept. 28. “We had a way better mentality today and did a better job on their best player [Westley Matavao], who we’ve gotten to know from playing her in club.”

JSerra senior Reese Brown hits through an Orange Lutheran block during the Division 2 final Saturday at Cerritos College.

JSerra senior Reese Brown hits through an Orange Lutheran block during the Southern Sectio Division 2 final Saturday at Cerritos College.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Matavao, a 6-foot freshman outside hitter who pounded 34 kills in six sets in the teams’ two league meetings, led the Lancers (28-14) with 17 on Saturday.

“It’s crazy … I’m still shaking,” Johnson said. “I can’t believe it. To do this with my best friends in my senior year is very special.”

Division 3: Top-seeded Beckman won the title with a 25-22, 25-15, 15-25, 25-19 victory over second-seeded Campbell Hall behind senior libero Stacy Reeves (32 digs) and senior outside hitters Camryn Hayek (20 kills, six blocks) and Nika Safavi (15 kills).

The teams traded points in the first set until the score reached 22-22. Then the Patriots (34-5) got back-to-back stuff blocks and a kill by Safavi to end it. Sophia Saad capped the second with a kill.

“We were in the Division 2 finals in 2016 and got swept by Ventura,” Beckman coach Darin McBain recalled. “This one felt different because I had a group of girls I could trust who have come through this whole year. That’s the best defensive team we’ve seen all season so to beat them for our first CIF title says a lot.”

The Vikings (31-5), who were riding a 21-match winning streak, raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set and won it on a hit long by Safavi. It was the first set Beckman lost since its 2-1 tournament loss to Sierra Canyon on Sept. 30.

Beckman players (from left) Camryn Hayek, Olivia Ramirez, Kristine Tran and Sophia Saad celebrate Saturday.

Beckman players (from left) Camryn Hayek, Olivia Ramirez, Kristine Tran and Sophia Saad celebrate during the Southern Section Division 3 final on Saturday.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

“We hadn’t lost a set in a month so you never know how players will react, but I reminded everyone we’re still up in the match and they have to win two more to beat us. Then we got down 14-11 in the fourth and it speaks to the girls’ resiliency that we were able to close it out.”

Division 4: The first match of the day had second-seeded Capistrano Valley Christian sweeping El Dorado 26-24, 25-23, 25-21. The Crestview League champion Hawks fell to 28-7.

Senior outside hitter Mikenna Henjum led the Eagles (33-4) with 14 kills, four aces and 24 digs.

Division 5: Temple City rode red hot outside hitter Taylor Yu to its first CIF title since 2002 in the final Friday night. The Stanford-bound senior pounded 35 kills in a 25-20, 25-21, 30-28 sweep of visiting Rancho Christian, giving her 646 kills in 22 matches. The Rams (18-4) dropped only one set in five playoff matches.

Division 6: Glendale swept Moorpark, 25-13, 25-21, 25-15, in the final Thursday for its 28th straight win.

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