June 21, 2024

When Audrey Flanagan saw the last ball land softly on the opposite side of the net, she whirled around and hugged her partner Giselle Yau, partly in joy and partly in relief.

Flanagan, a sophomore, played a major role in Manhattan Beach Mira Costa’s run to the Southern Section Division 1 indoor volleyball finals in the fall, but while the Mustangs came up short on the court, they reign supreme on the sand after defeating South Bay rival Redondo Union, 4-1, to repeat as Division 1 girls’ beach volleyball champions Saturday at Long Beach City College.

“I definitely like indoor more but beach is harder because you can’t just specialize in one thing,” Flanagan said after she and Lau rallied to beat the Abby Zimmerman and Victoria Henkel of the Sea Hawks, 18-21, 21-19, 15-12 on Court 1 to earn Mira Costa’s last point despite the title already having been clinched.

“Losing [to Mater Dei] in the finals motivated me even more to win here. Last year, I played No. 4 with Taylor Decker, but I was a freshman and not a major part of the team. I don’t play beach tournaments, I only practice with the team, but Giselle and I are super competitive so we wanted to win no matter what.”

Making the top tandem’s victory even more impressive was the fact they had never played together. In Mira Costa’s 5-0 semifinal shutout of Huntington Beach, Flanagan was paired with Olga Nikolaeva while Giselle played alongside her twin sister Savanna.

“I play beach every day with my sister, I don’t play indoor, but Audrey is easy to play with because she’s so tall and can put the ball away so I tried to set her a lot,” said Yau, a senior. “I’ve played those girls a lot in beach and they’re a good team.”

It was a rematch of last year’s inaugural championship when Mira Costa won 5-0. Redondo Union avoided a sweep this time when the No. 2 team of Kenzie Miller and Addison Junk outlasted Mira Costa’s Nikolaeva and Savanna Yau 15-11 in the decisive third set.

Mira Costa’s Audrey Flanagan, left, tries to block Redondo Union’s Victoria Henkel.

Mira Costa’s Audrey Flanagan, left, tries to block Redondo Union’s Victoria Henkel on Saturday.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Mira Costa needed 35 minutes to sweep on Courts 3, 4 and 5 to clinch the best-of-five format. Reese Thai-Sandoval and Kendal Steller notched the first point with a 21-17, 21-9 win on Court 5 moments before Simon Roslon and Kate Morley won 21-17, 21-17 on Court 3 to make it 2-0 and put the Mustangs on the brink of a title. That came 10 minutes later when Ruby Chochrane and Alex Kurz closed out a 21-12, 21-19 triumph over Redondo Union’s Ava Slavin and Abby Zimmerman on Court 4.

The Mustangs capped a perfect season, winning all 16 of their dual matches.

Redondo Union advanced to the final with a 3-2 victory over JSerra. The dual was deadlocked at 2-2 before Miller and Junk pulled out the third set 15-12 on Court 2.

Division 2

Westlake Village Oaks Christian head coach Julie Bennett thought it was deja’ vu all over again until the last moments of the final, but the No. 5 pair of Ava Brittain and Kamryn Tifft held off a furious comeback by the Capistrano Valley Christian duo of Hope Van Rensselear and and Laekin Wheeler to win 15-10 and clinch the Lions’ 3-2 victory.

“At the end I kept telling myself there’s no way we worked this hard not to win,” said Brittain, a junior who plays libero on her school’s indoor team. “I just tried concentrating on getting the ball over and not giving away points with mistakes.”

“I thought we’d lost when we they won the second set, but I realized we had one left,” added Tifft, a right-side hitter on the Lions’ indoor squad. “Once we hit 8-1 losing was not even an option. We just had to focus on the basics and build each other up.”

The duo had lost 15-13 in the third set in the semifinals, but Oaks Christian had swept on the first three courts on its way to beating Long Beach Wilson 3-2.

Early on it looked as if Oaks Christian would win easily after winning two of the first three courts and holding one-set leads on the the remaining two courts. The Eagles’ No. 4 duo of Eva De La Torre and Addison Williams rallied to win 13-21, 21-13, 15-10 to level the match at 2-2 before Rensselear and Wheeler staved off two championship points in the second set to win 22-20 and force a decider.

Brittain and Tifft built a commanding 8-1 lead in the first-to-15 format, but their opponents reeled off six straight points to pull to within 8-7. However, a hit long and Brittain’s touch kill gave the Lions’ duo a three-point cushion at 10-7 and from there the two won five of the next seven points.

“I had some flashbacks there,” Bennett said. “It was the same scenario last year in the semifinals versus Crean Lutheran. It was different girls, but it came down to the fives and we had a five- or six-point lead and lost.”

The No. 1 pair of Jady Mape and Heidi Lindas won 21-12, 21-9 and Paige Hansen partnered with Ellie Hallinan to sweep 21-19, 21-12 on Court 3, as Hansen served an ace on match point, moving Oaks Christian to within one victory of the title.

CITY SECTION

Audrey and Addison Choi of Woodland Hills El Camino Real won the City girls’ pairs tournament at Santa Monica State Beach. Seeded No. 1 out of 55 duos, the sisters downed Samantha Lortie and Savannah Rozell of Venice 28-7 in the final.

Audrey, a senior, is committed to UC Davis for beach volleyball. Addison is a freshman.

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