La Cañada Wins First League Title Since 2012

The La Cañada High School varsity girls’ volleyball team captured the Rio Hondo League title for the first time since 2012. The championship-winning squad includes Chloe Kerstein (front row, from left), Sophia Bang, Prudence Sum, Elizabeth Gannon and Hailey Belcher. Middle: Maya White, Katherine Albano, Samantha Mayer, Erica Oh and Alexandra Gates. Back: Allison Budde, Emma Aitelli, Emily Weirick, Claire Kevorkian, Natalie Shamilian, Kimberly Callister and Claire Saydah.

Two years ago, Chris Sullivan accepted the position of La Cañada High School varsity girls’ volleyball coach but inherited a team with only two returning players.
“I’ve been rebuilding the past couple of years,” he said. “It was tough, but now the program is in a good spot for this year and the future. A lot of that has to do with the seniors and the leadership they have displayed.”
That leadership made it a goal to bring back the Rio Hondo League championship back to La Cañada, and that mission was finally accomplished when the Spartans defeated host Pasadena Blair in three sets, 25-9, 25-14, 25-4, last week.
The Spartans (20-6 overall record, 9-1 in league) clinched the crown outright on Monday by sweeping Temple City, 25-13, 25-21, 25-11.
“It’s a great feeling to win the title,” Sullivan said. “I’m really proud of the girls and everything they worked toward. They worked really hard.
“When I graduated from La Cañada, former coach [Brock Turner] had La Cañada dominating every year. It’s been a humbling experience from when I took over, and it definitely feels great to be able to now call ourselves league champions. That’s all on the girls.”
Emily Weirick led the team with 11 kills and Chloe Kerstein added eight. Hailey Belcher finished with 32 assists, five aces and a kill, Sophia Bang recorded seven kills, Claire Kevorkian had six kills, Kimberly Callister tallied five kills and two blocks, Elizabeth Gannon had 18 digs, Prudence Sum recorded three aces, Natalie Shamilian finished with two kills, Maya White contributed one kill and Alexandra Gates had three assists.
The CIF Southern Section playoff pairings will be announced today at 3 p.m. and the Spartans will be competing in the highly-competitive Division 4, which includes teams such as Mission Hills Alemany, Pasadena Poly and Oaks Christian.
However, Sullivan isn’t concerned with the tough competition and carries a confidence similar to that of his senior leaders.
“They were there during the struggles of the first year and not making the playoffs,” Sullivan said of his veterans. “They’ve been through all that kind of stuff and know what it takes. They’ve really set the tone and the rest of the girls caught on. This entire group is loud and on the same page. They really are selfless and about the team rather than the individual.”
The Spartans’ struggles the past few seasons only hardened this senior group, which approaches every match with an underdog mentality that is infectious.
“I know we play in a good division, but I have confidence in my kids that they’re going to go out there and compete every single night,” Sullivan said. “They have this mentality in which they play like they’re always behind. They have that comeback spirit. We’re going to come out and give it everything we got. Though it is a good division, I don’t think anybody is completely invincible. We’re going to take it one game at a time and one point at a time.”
First-round CIF-SS playoff matches will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m.

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