Chaminade girls’ volleyball (38-3) won its home CIF Division 2 State Regional semifinals matchup with Saugus (35-3) on Saturday.
The Eagles snapped the Centurions’ 10-game win streak and won the match with scores of 23-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20 and 15-13.
The Eagles were led by outside Kiera Brady, who hit 24 kills along with three blocks.
It was Saugus’ first five-set match on the year and Chaminade’s third. The Eagles are now 3-0 in five-set matches.
The match was also Saugus’ first road playoff match of the season and first away match in just under a month. The Centurions may have been away for the first time in months but it didn’t seem like it much. The Saugus fans showed up for the team and nearly stole home court advantage from Chaminade.
Both teams gave it everything they had from the first point, which was ended by a kill from Saugus outside hitter Leila Ballard after a long rally.
The Centurions would go up 10-4 quickly thanks to great hitting and blocking but they couldn’t hold the Eagles down for long. Brady’s swing began heating up in the middle of the set and Chaminade proved it could block, too.
Three straight kills from Centurion opposite hitter Taylor Treahy helped Saugus take a 23-21 lead but Chaminade held on to tie it. However, a costly service error handed set point to the Centurions. Treahy then slammed down her seventh kill of the set to take the first game.
Treahy finished the night with 25 kills, seven digs and six blocks.
Service errors plagued Saugus in the second set as the Centurions had an uncharacteristic seven balls get away from them on the serve.
Chaminade would capitalize and keep hammering Saugus’ struggling service receivers. Eagles middle Auden Gofberg would knock down an ace to take a 23-19 lead before kills by Brady notched the final two points and evened the game at 1-1.
The Eagles did a great job throughout the match forcing setter Milani Lee to pass. Lee finished the night with 40 assists and 21 digs.
It looked like the third set would get away from Saugus as well after starting with a Milani Lee service error. The team’s serve receive spiraled and dug them into a 6-14 hole. The Centurions didn’t flinch and surged on a 9-0 run to take the lead. The team kept pushing and wound up on an 18-2 run to reach set point but Chaminade kept fighting.
Saugus still wasn’t consistently passing cleanly on the Eagles’ serves. Chaminade libero recorded two aces to push Saugus but a Treahy kill again ended the set to take a 2-1 lead.
The teams went neck and neck for most of the fourth game until a 5-0 run gave the Eagles some breathing room. Saugus kept fighting for every point but back-to-back kills from Brady keep her team’s lead.
Chaminade senior Daniella Ayala would come alive late in the set to help her Eagles force a fifth game. Ayala slammed down a late kill and then later registered a game-winning block to force a fifth frame.
“It was toe to toe,” said Centurion head coach Zach Ambrose. “Someone got the lead, the other team came back, tied it up and it went that way the whole match until the end. They just came out, they played a little bit better in that fifth game and we had opportunities but their defense was super solid. We had very small windows to hit through and they just executed a tiny bit better than we did.”
It was another battle as the teams exchanged blows, allowing no room for comfort on the scoreboard. Treahy showed little signs of fatigue with 53 attempts and kept swinging away to keep Saugus’ season alive.
The Saugus blocking was exceptional to close the game. After the Centurions coughed up two easy free balls on overpasses, the Saugus blockers sent back three straight Eagle attacks to take an 8-5 lead.
The middle blocker tandem of Shelby Scott and Naomi Greer has been a staple of the Saugus team this season. The two combined for 18 blocks in their final game in a Centurion jersey.
“We won two tournaments that we played in. We won league, we won CIF. This is all just icing on the cake,” said Greer. “Honestly, I’m so happy to be where I am and to have come this far with the people that I was with.”
Chaminade responded quickly and a Jade Fritzinger block would tie the game up at 8-8.
Ballard registered two consecutive points with a block followed by a kill to tie the game at 13.
Chaminade scored immediately after with a kill from senior Kaetlyn Stratton before a pipe-kill from Brady ended the match.
The Eagles now move on to host Francis Parker in the Regional Finals.
Even in the loss, Ambrose couldn’t be prouder of his team and how far they’ve come not only this season but in their high school careers.
“The middles, both Naomi and Shelby, were the core of our blocking defense and so that’s going to be hard to replace next year,” said Ambrose. “We’ve got some young kids that are ready to come up I think and take it over. But you know, being a senior and having that experience gives you a little bit of an extra edge at the end.”
Saugus will retain plenty of starters but graduate a huge senior class including both starting middles and their star setter.
“Milani has played varsity for four years and her growth has been astronomical,” said Ambrose. “She’s an amazing player. Good setter and has a great understanding of the game and trying to find the right hitter in the right situation. We’re gonna greatly miss her and she’s been on the court for almost every point for four years. So that’s tough to replace.”
Saugus won 35 matches while only dropping 11 sets all season. Even in defeat, the Centurions can hold their heads high as the best team Ambrose has ever coached. They achieved this mark as they did with everything else, together.
“[This season] was seriously fantastic,” said Greer. “Everybody on this team, our starters and our non-starters, we’re all family. We were so accepting towards everybody. There wasn’t any drama last year or this year. We wanted to keep it like that. So we knew we would be as close as possible and it definitely worked. There was nothing ever wrong with this team ever.”