The Santa Clarita Christian School girls volleyball team didn’t waste any time proving to the visiting Coastal Christian just what home-court advantage does for a team in a CIF-Southern Section Division 8 second-round matchup at SCCS on Monday.
In front of a raucous SCCS crowd, after a Conquerors serving error to begin the match, the Cardinals stormed out of the gates and took an early lead with back-to-back aces by Vanessa Gracia.
Coastal Christian fought back with three aces by Allison Frisby, but the Cardinals showed great poise in the game and fought back, something that was indicative of their play throughout the night to win in four games: 25-9, 22-25, 26-24, 25-23.
Down 5-3 in the first game, SCCS started to communicate better as a team and forced Coastal Christian into a number of errors, taking an 11-7 lead into a Conquerors timeout.
Out of the timeout, Alicia Castillo made her presence felt with her serves and delivered two of her three aces on the night to catapult the Cardinals to an 8-0, forcing another Conquerors timeout to try and stop the bleeding.
The Cardinals lead was just too much as the visitors scored just two more points and fell by double digits.
Gracia’s hot hand got the Cardinals on the board to begin the game with back-to-back aces to give SCCS a 5-0 lead.
The Conquerors battled back with a 6-0 run of their own behind Nina Rakoczy’s serving which caught the Cardinals’ backline off guards to go down by one, 11-10.
The teams traded the lead until Coastal Christian’s Frisby and Ashley White willed their team to a 5-0 run forcing an SCCS timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Cardinals fell into a bigger hole down 23-15, but rallied back with Conqueror errors and an ace by Gianna Pelletier to get within four. That was all the closer the team got to an advantage.
“I think we settled a little bit in the second game and just made too many mistakes,” said SCCS head coach Darcy Brown. “We didn’t play as aggressive as I know we can. Sometimes when you don’t play aggressive, you commit more errors than you usually do.
The momentum from the second-game win carried over as the Conquerors took a 6-2 lead forcing an SCCS timeout. Promptly, Austen Hermanson entered the game and got her team back in it with her serving and assists, finding Olivia Prezioso and her teammates for timely kills.
Down 23-22, SCCS looked like it was going to go down 2-1 in games, the Cards scored the game’s final four points to squeak out a win capped by a Kaysa Brown ace.
“That’s what I love about the depth of this team. On any given day we can have a lot of girls step up and contribute,” Brown said about her team’s depth. “Olivia definitely put the ball away when we needed her to and that was a big thing, she was much more confident in her swings tonight which was big.”
In a back-and-forth fourth game, both teams committed numerous hitting and serving errors, fighting to a 12-12 tie halfway through the game.
Out of the Coastal Christian timeout, Brown found her spots and served up three aces to give the Cardinals a 21-17 advantage. The Conquerors tied it up at 21-21 and took their final lead of the match 23-22, but a Pelletier kill, a big block by Castillo and a hitting error by the Conquerors propelled the Cardinals onto the next round.
“Alicia was tough on the blocks and she served well, to serve that many in the first game was huge,” Brown said. “Just the consistency was a major factor in just being able to stay and take the lead in the third and fourth game.”
The Cardinals have a quick turnaround as they head out on the road to take on St. Bernard at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We just need to clean up the errors,” Brown said ahead of the quarterfinal match. “It’s been a rough couple of days, but we will settle back in for practice and prepare to be ready for Wednesday.