Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals girls’ volleyball overcame a sluggish start on Tuesday before sweeping the visiting Desert Christian Knights.
SCCS won the match, 26-24, 25-15, 25-20.
Self-inflicted wounds and miscommunication put the Cardinals (11-4-1, 7-0) in a quick 13-6 hole. According to SCCS head coach Darcy Brown, it was an uncharacteristic start for her veteran squad.
“That wasn’t our normal play and they all agreed,” Brown said. “They all knew that they came out slow and so all of a sudden when the score was not in our favor and after two timeouts, they kicked it into gear and played our game. We just came out to a slow start for whatever reason.”
The Cards broke out of the rut and found their rhythm with senior outside hitter Sabrina Banke powering the team back into the opening set.
Banke did the majority of her damage in the first set, where she hammered down six of her 12 kills. Banke caught fire and registered three straight kills to push the Cardinals to set point.
The Knights rallied on a 4-0 run but ran out of gas at 24 points and a Camilla Alvarado ace sealed the first set. Alvarado finished the night with a match-high four aces.
Cardinals outside hitter London Steele sparked in the second set, where the team was able to remain in control and finish off the set by 10 points. The Knights (7-12-1, 3-4) battled and even forced a 10-possession rally with Cardinals setter Evie Frields coming up with multiple clutch digs to keep SCCS alive. Steele capped off the rally with one of her 10 kills and also added two aces in the second set.
Frields finished the day with 20 assists and 10 digs. Libero Kylie Webster led all Cardinals with 13 digs.
Desert Christian came alive in the third set, partially thanks to more Cardinals’ miscommunication. SCCS dug into as much as a 4-10 hole but again found ways to snap out of it and tied the game 20-20.
The Cards had a ton of momentum but once they got that set-tying point, the team sparked on a 6-0 run to close out the set and match.
Banke and Steele were solid all around. The two are always finding ways to help each other on and off the court.
“London and I are so close, she actually helps me while we’re in class and gives me motivation and encouragement on what to fix,” Banke said. “She is such an amazing player and I rely on her to do that for me. And just taking her advice is just amazing because she is one of my best friends. So it’s amazing.”
The Cardinals’ varsity squad wasn’t the only team to post a critical comeback. SCCS junior varsity went down 6-13 in the final set of its match with Desert before screaming back into the match and taking the third set, 16-14.
“I think we were really inspired,” Banke said. “(JV) just kind of brings us out of our shells a little because we see them as little sisters. So seeing them win and be happy just makes us so much more excited for our game.”
SCCS remains undefeated now in the second leg of Heritage League play. Brown has seen every player on her team dedicate themselves to improving every day and pushing the team to its best.
“This team has done really well and one thing that we’ve really worked hard on is never giving up. We are always kind of coming in and fighting for every point. So some miscommunication and some errors that you know we definitely needed to clean up but they came back fighting and ended up winning in the end. So it says a lot about who they are and they made some great scrappy plays. So again that shows their fight.”
There were big shoes to fill on varsity this season. The Cardinals are just two years off an undefeated 37-0 league, CIF and state championship team while the 2022 squad also featured more college-bound players.
Brown believes her squad has found its identity now that they are their own team leaving their marks on a campus that has seen legendary volleyball teams.
“I think at the beginning of the season, they had to get away from being in the shadow of last year’s team,” Brown said. “They’ve worked hard to come into their own and I think that they have fought for that. The first couple of games kind of humbled them but we’ve played some bigger schools. I think when they got a taste that they could do it on their own, that they could be a good successful team, it changed their way of thinking.”
SCCS returns home for more league action on Monday, when the Cardinals will play in round two with the Faith Baptist Contenders (10-7, 7-2).
Brown is pleased with the constant improvements her team has made and hopes to see the same incline throughout the final weeks of the season.
“We just need to keep getting better every day and if we think we’re comfortable, then we’re not going to do well,” Brown said. “They do have the desire to want to get better and better so every game I see better and better things that they’re doing. I have several girls that have really taken it upon themselves to know what they can do to fix things and know how they can get better and it’s only going to make us more successful as a team.”
SCCS hosts Faith Baptist on Monday at 5:30 p.m.