No. 2 Cardinals stunned at home by No. 3 Dolphins in CIF regional semifinals
Santa Clarita Christian School girls’ volleyball (26-4) saw its season end at the hands of the Palisades Dolphins (34-10) via a sweep, 29-31, 23-25, 15-25, at home in the regional semifinal round of the CIF state Division 4 playoffs on Saturday.
The second-seeded Cardinals were looking to make it back-to-back state titles after winning it all in Division 5 last year.
“I’m so proud of them. What they’ve accomplished has been absolutely amazing,” SCCS head coach Darcy Brown said. “I’ve told them I was so, obviously, extremely proud of them last year, but then getting moved up two divisions this year in CIF-Southern Section and then getting moved up a division in state and still being as successful as we were, I couldn’t be more proud of them for what they did and their fight, their tenacity on the court, their camaraderie, their teamwork.”
The third-seeded Dolphins came out swinging, running out to a 7-3 lead early in the first set. The Cardinals would go on to tie it at 10-10, the first of 12 ties in the set to take it to 25-25. The two teams then battled it out for 10 extra points, with the Cardinals eventually succumbing, 31-29.
It was again tight in the second set, with the Dolphins jumping out early, 4-0, before the Cardinals brought it back to even a short time later. Another back-and-forth set that saw five lead changes came down to the wire, with Palisades coming out on top, 25-23.
“After you lose, what, 31-29, in that first set, it’s a little bit deflating,” Brown said. “And so, coming back, it took us a few points, but we regained it and we were neck and neck with them the whole game that second set. Just little things. I think our girls, I think they were so nervous not to lose, you know, just silly little errors got us.”
The Dolphins were riding a wave after that second set, and while the Cardinals were able to keep it close for a short time, the Dolphins used a 15-5 run to close out the set and complete the sweep. A few of those points that went the Dolphins’ way were the product of some lucky bounces off the net or the fingertips of the Cardinals’ players, though Brown admitted that, in the end, her team was beaten by another quality opponent.
“You can’t give errors to a team that’s this good,” Brown said. “Hats off to them, they’ve got girls that could swing, they played solid defense and, you know they played well. I’m super proud of our girls for hanging the way they did with them.
“[Palisades is] not your typical Division 4 team, I don’t think,” Brown said. “And I had heard that coming in that they should have been probably in a higher division, but it is what it is. It’s the nature of sports.”
The Cardinals were led by senior Kaysa Brown (six kills, nine assists, 11 digs, two blocks), senior Hannah Shaffer (four kills, 2 digs, four blocks) and senior Bethany Wilson (10 blocks). Junior Evie Frields helped out with four kills and six digs, while senior Clara Ayer had 14 digs and two aces.
It’s the end of the road for the SCCS seniors, who put their name in Cardinal lore by winning the CIF state title as juniors. They came a win away from playing in the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship match and were just two wins away from playing in a second consecutive state title match despite being moved up a division from last year’s title run.
“It’s always hard when you come off a season like last year to hold that fight and be successful again, but these girls found a way to do it again,” coach Brown said. “And they’re not a team that likes to lose. They’re not a team that likes to give up easily, and so we knew these last couple games would be tough no matter what. So as I look to the banners that we have from last year, I told the seniors, I can’t be more proud of them, just everything that they’ve accomplished.”
The Dolphins will move on to the regional finals on Tuesday where they will face No. 1 Central Valley Christian (25-14), with the winner advancing to the Division 4 state championship next Saturday.