By Jonathan Andrade
For The Signal
A hand-painted sign taped to the wall at the top of the Saugus High bleachers read: “Sweep ’em up!”
The Centurions obliged.
Saugus (34-2) made quick work of the visiting Roosevelt Mustangs (28-7) in a three-set sweep (25-13, 25-18, 25-18) in the opening round of the CIF State Division II playoffs Tuesday night.
It was the Centurions’ ninth consecutive straight-set victory.
“I feel like it’s expected from us,” said sophomore outside hitter Morgan Guardado. “Even from the schools in this valley, it’s like, Saugus is that team.’”
Guardado had a great opener, compiling 12 digs, five kills, five aces and a block.
Saugus, champions of CIF-Southern Section’s Division 4, hasn’t lost a set since it was upset in four frames by Foothill League foe Hart on Sept. 28.
Powered by its balanced attack and imposing presence at the net, Saugus controlled Tuesday night’s match from start to finish.
Star opposite hitter Taylor Treahy, a junior, shined brightest once again, leading Saugus with 11 kills and chipping in 13 digs. Gabriela Cascione, a sophomore libero, tallied up a team-high 22 digs.
“(Roosevelt) did a good job of moving the ball around our block,” Saugus head coach Zach Ambrose said. “Usually, we rely on that to give us a lot of soft touches so we can transition on offense. Today we needed a lot more digging, and the back row stepped it up when we finally made the adjustments.”
Senior middle blockers Shelby Scott and Naomi Greer, who combined for seven blocks on the night, started giving the Mustangs fits up front early in the first. A streak of solid serves from senior setter Milani Lee kept Saugus in the driver’s seat en route to a 25-13 opening-set win.
Saugus looked to ease up in the second set, allowing Roosevelt to build a 6-3 lead before Ambrose called a timeout and refocused the Centurions. Even when the Mustangs evened it back up at 16-16, another Saugus timeout was enough to right the Centurions’ proverbial sails toward a 25-18 set victory.
“We were not as sharp as we normally are,” Ambrose said. “We played well enough to win. In a tournament, that’s all you need to do, is move on.”
Saugus finished the job in the third, stretching its season at least one more match.
While Roosevelt certainly earned its spot in the state playoffs with an impressive semifinal run in Southern Section’s Division 4, the Mustangs were no match for Saugus, which bested the team (Campbell Hall) that bounced the Mustangs from the postseason on Oct. 29.
While Ambrose was pleased with his team’s ability to advance in the bracket, he said he knows the road ahead doesn’t get any easier.
“They’re not teams we’ve seen or played this year,” the coach said. “They’re going to be some of the top teams we’ve faced all year.”
Ambrose is not concerned about his players being up for the challenge.
“No one needs to light a fire under these girls. It’s just natural. They want to come out, compete and dominate.”
After falling in the section semifinals last year, this fall has been everything the seniors could have asked for and more. They’re savoring every additional set.
Saugus will look to extend the memorable season Thursday night against El Capitan, which outlasted Oaks Christian in five sets on Tuesday.
“This season’s been so much fun,” Scott said. “I knew we were going to go far, but to come this far and accomplish so much already, it’s extraordinary.”