First published in the Oct. 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada High School’s varsity girls’ volleyball team’s season came to an end as it was defeated by visiting Temecula Chaparral, 25-15, 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, in the CIF-SS Division 2 first-round playoff match last Thursday.
The Rio Hondo League champion Spartans ended the season with a 28-5 overall record (8-0 in league) and earned the school’s second-best win streak under third-year head coach Laura Browder.
Senior Olivia Toland, who earned La Cañada’s player of the match honors, set the tone offensively for the Spartans with a team-high 25 kills and two aces. Defensively, she had 12 digs and three total blocks (one solo, two assists).
“[Toland] did a great job of contributing,” Browder said. “Just watching her grow as a leader and as a player is one of my highlights of this year.”
Junior Nikki Hughes recorded 10 kills, seven digs, one ace and one solo block, while sophomore Haley Clark added six kills, four solo blocks and four digs.
Sophomore Chloe Nussbaum had 20 digs and four aces, both team-highs, while junior Rachel Salit had 11 digs, two kills and one assisted block.
“Chloe, our libero, had a really great match as well,” Browder said. “Rachel came in and gave us a lot of energy off the bench, so that was fun to watch.”
In her final match, senior Allie Landa handled the ball well for the Spartans with a team-high 26 assists, 19 digs, two total blocks (one solo, one assist) and one kill.
Under Coach Browder’s tenure, the Spartans have been terrific, going 16-2 in league play and 50-14 overall. However, Browder and the Spartans will bid farewell to a handful of seniors when they graduate in 2022 — Toland, Landa, Kylie Sears and Jaeda Walden, the latter of which missed the entire season due to a knee injury.
Toland had an outstanding season with 462 kills, including a career-high 37 against South Pasadena on Sept. 28. She also had 207 digs, 53 aces and 48 total blocks (18 solo, 30 assists) in 87 sets.
“Last time I saw Olivia Toland, she was a sophomore and obviously an athletic kid, then we had her junior year off [because of the pandemic],” Browder said of Toland’s development as a player. “Seeing her step in and be a dynamic hitter, to grow to be able to read blockers, read defenses and change up her shots, and adding more dimensions was really cool for me to watch. Then also just her maturity, she was for sure one of the leaders on our team. All the girls really looked up to her.”
Landa, La Cañada’s terrific setter, recorded 725 assists, 219 digs 39 aces, 21 kills and 13 total blocks (six solo, seven assists).
In 80 sets, Sears added 54 blocks (15 solo, 39 assists), 33 kills and 11 digs.
The Spartans boast a core of three juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen on their roster.
Hughes had a fine season with 208 kills, 33 aces, 58 total blocks (30 solo, 28 assists) and 90 digs. Teammate Salit recorded 114 digs, 65 kills, 30 aces and 10 total blocks (three solo, seven assists) while junior Kate Shaw added 32 digs, 16 aces and four kills.
In her first high school season, sophomore Haley Clark had an outstanding campaign with 306 kills, second to Toland for the team lead. She also had 201 digs, 85 blocks (51 solo, 34 assists) and 57 aces.
Nussbaum recorded 412 digs and 79 aces, both team-highs, in 93 sets. She also added 74 assists and 11 kills.
Freshman Katie McGuinness and Tatum Purdy also did well in their first seasons at the high school varsity level. McGuinness had 61 total blocks (20 solo, 41 assists), 21 kills and 17 digs, while Purdy logged 236 assists, 68 digs, 11 aces and five kills.