The La Salle High School varsity girls’ volleyball team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship match against a familiar foe in Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The Lancers had swept their opponent earlier in the season and hoped for the same outcome, but an inspired Trailblazers team avoided history repeating itself by defeating No. 1-seeded La Salle in four sets, 25-21, 25-16, 18-25, 25-17, at Cerritos College in Norwalk last Saturday.
“It was the same,” said La Salle head coach Tiare Tuitama, who guided the program to CIF-SS titles in 2012 and 2013. “I think our lineup was a little bit of the same. We did watch film on them, and it wasn’t anything that they had change. It was just kind of who brought it today. You got to show up on the day that it counts.”
May Pertofsky and Zoie Stewart certainly stepped up for Sierra Canyon (33-7 overall record), which jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first game. Petrofsky recorded seven kills and Stewart’s blocking kept the Lancers’ at bay, but La Salle kept fighting.
The Lancers (25-6 overall) stormed back in the first set and led 21-19, but Jaylen Jordan of Sierra Canyon sparked a 6-0 run that gave the Trailblazers a big Game 1 victory.
“I think we really served a certain location and game plan to force them into an offensive play we could anticipate,” said Sierra Canyon head coach Stefanie Wigfall, whose team outblocked La Salle, 10-4. “Our game plan was to slow down their seniors and get touches on their attacks. It really came down to serving. We served tough and tried to get them out of their system and tried to score points where we could. We haven’t worked so hard all season to get the ball on the ground. I knew from the jump it was going to be an extremely hard battle because their defense is phenomenal.”
A stunned La Salle squad continued to struggle in the second game, and Sierra Canyon took full advantage with a 10-5 run to open the set.
“We got off to a slow start,” said Tuitama. “We have great rotations, but if you can’t get the pass to the setter, it’s hard as far as options. But we started to get that down and figuring that out and keying in on people that were putting the ball away and emphasizing on them. We were just playing our game for the most part.”
La Salle found its rhythm offensively in the third game behind the stellar play of senior Sofia Sanchez, who helped her squad build a 16-11 lead. Chloe Howell and Victoria Ashkinos contributed key kills down the stretch to help the Lancers win the third set.
“We kind of started playing our game,” Tuitama said. “One thing that I think we take pride in is being scrappy. We started playing our game and being scrappy. Trying to get the lead and keeping it is hard to do.”
La Salle learned how difficult it is to keep a lead the hard way in the fourth game as Sierra Canyon prevented the Lancers from pulling away with timely kills and blocks. La Salle was unable to muster any runs of three consecutive points in the fourth set, and Stewart recorded six of her 17 kills to help the Trailblazers claim the CIF title.
Pertofsky recorded a match-high 21 kills and Stewart finished with an impressive kill percentage of .516.
“They have a great team and hitters who execute if you let them go on a run,” Tuitama said. “They just keep going with it. There were moments we started to get back into it and then they just got the serve. With girls volleyball, it’s all about emotions and momentum.”
Sanchez led La Salle with 15 kills, Claire Forrest added 11 kills and Ashkinos finished with 9 kills and 25 assists. Devon Nardoni contributed 14 assists, Howell recorded seven kills, Sophia Anderson had six kills and Vanessa Ramirez tallied 27 digs.
Despite the loss, the Lancers’ season continued on Wednesday. La Salle hosted Bakersfield Christian in a CIF State Division 2 first-round playoff match on Wednesday. Should the Lancers win, they would move on to host either Del Norte of San Diego or Santa Monica in a second-round match this Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s tough to play state, and there’s nothing I’m going to say that will make them feel better,” Tuitama said. “We’re happy that we got to the CIF championship. It’s been a long road to go undefeated in league and be first in CIF. Getting here, we have a big X on us, and the fact that we’re here is just awesome. We have a good team.”