Brackets for the 2023 CIF Southern Section volleyball playoffs were released on Saturday, and six local teams made the cut as the top four Foothill League teams and top two Heritage League teams will continue on in their season.
Hart and West Ranch completed the regular season as co-league champions. It was Hart’s first Foothill League championship since 2019, when the two teams also shared the league crown.
Saugus finished a terrific season and only dropped one match outside of league play, while Valencia just snuck into the postseason in a tie for fourth with the Golden Valley Grizzlies. Golden Valley forced a tie for fourth in the Foothill League after beating the Vikings in five sets on Monday but was snubbed and wasn’t even awarded a wild-card seed.
Canyon and Castaic also both missed out on the playoffs but each took solid steps as programs this season.
Santa Clarita Christian closed out with a bang and secured yet another Heritage League title and will enter the playoffs awaiting a winner from a wildcard match.
Here’s everything you need to know about the first round of the CIF playoffs:
Hart hosts Yucaipa
The co-champion Indians will open up the postseason at home for the second straight year. The Indians will host the Citrus Belt League runner-up, Yucaipa Thunderbirds (18-11, 6-4).
Yucaipa is led by outside hitter Torey Barnthouse, who tallied 277 kills and 36 aces in the regular season this year. The outside hitter also finished second in digs on the team.
Hart is of course led by outside hitter Madison Maxwell, who holds numerous school records, which she hopes to continue growing on a long playoff run.
The Indians enter the postseason on a five-match win streak and are playing some of their best volleyball right now. The win streak includes a straight-set win over the co-champ Wildcats, who previously took down the Indians in four sets.
Libero Alexis Holloway and setter Morgan Dumlao have also had terrific seasons and will be key to Hart winning its first home playoff match in five years.
Hart takes on Yucaipa in the opening round of the Division 3 playoffs on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hart High School.
West Ranch hosts Burroughs Burbank
The co-champion West Ranch (17-2, 11-1) will enter the Division 4 playoffs as its top seed. The Wildcats will open up postseason play at home with the Burroughs Bears (14-15, 8-6).
Burroughs stumbled into the playoffs as a winner of two of its last seven matches, including a 2-0 loss to Hart.
West Ranch has dropped just two matches all season, losing only to two of the top teams in Division 3. The Cats had a revitalizing 2023 season after a surprising 10-12 finish last year. A big part of the resurgence has been libero Alexandra Seras. The Wildcats’ passing held them back in 2022, but Seras, a sophomore, has stepped into the starting libero role and been an anchor on the West Ranch back row.
UCLA commit Kennedy Osunsanmi leads the fast-paced Wildcat offense from all over the court. Sophomore setter Dani Clewis has worked well with Osunsanmi, feeding her the ball, while also getting other Wildcat hitters involved. Clewis has been one of the best setters in the Foothill League this year thanks to her consistent ball-handling and blocking skills.
The Wildcats are looking for their first postseason win in two seasons, and look like they have the team and coach to do so.
West Ranch hosts Burroughs on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Saugus heads to Canyon of Anaheim
The reigning Division 4 CIF champs will test their luck in Division 3 this season. Saugus (28-5, 8-4) will open up postseason play with the Canyon Comanches (18-4, 5-0) of Anaheim.
The two teams met earlier this year in tournament play where Saugus swept the two-set match. Junior Leila Ballard led the offense with 12 kills while Taylor Lane added five blocks for the Cents in the win over Canyon.
Ballard finished the regular season with 468 kills, while the school’s all-time dig leader Gabriela Cascione registered 443 digs in 2023.
Most formidable squads are tough to beat more than once, and head coach Zach Ambrose won’t take any opponent for granted.
The Centurions may not have taken a step back from the Foothill League title this year but are still a veteran group with immense CIF experience. Saugus’ core players have taken the court in 13 postseason matches in the past two years. The team has also only lost one non-league match this season, the same number of losses the Centurions entered the playoffs with last season before winning a CIF title.
Saugus and Canyon take the floor on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Canyon High School in Anaheim.
Valencia faces road test at Camarillo
The Vikings (7-12, 5-7) will begin the Division 5 CIF playoffs with a road matchup against the Camarillo Scorpions (9-15, 4-4).
Camarillo is led by freshman Halle Bryce and senior Mackenzie Anderson. The two have been key to the Scorpions’ success earlier in the season but have since hit a rough patch, dropping seven of their last eight matches.
Valencia has had a bumpy season to say the least but has a solid shot at winning some playoff matches. The Vikings are led by outside hitters Luca Heerlein, Elena Hernandez and middle blocker Makayla Garcia.
The Camarillo program may finally be on the upswing with the emergence of young players like Bryce and sophomore Sophia Anderson.
The Vikings head to Camarillo to take on the Scorpions on Thursday at 6 p.m.
SCCS awaits wildcard winner
The Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals (17-4-2, 13-1) will have to wait until Tuesday night to find out whom they’ll be playing on Thursday. Either the Paraclete Spirits or the Lancaster Eagles will head to SCCS on Thursday after the two show down on Tuesday at Lancaster High School.
The Cardinals have come into form this season and again are looking like a threat in the Division 6 playoffs. SCCS has had tremendous success over the years, something that loomed over the 2023 squad. The team has thrived since finding its own identity.
The Cards enter the playoffs as winners of 11 of their last 12 matches, with eight sweeps in that span.
Outside hitters London Steele and Sabrina Banke have led the offense, while setter Evie Frields and libero Kylie Webster have been standouts for head coach Darcy Brown.
SCCS hosts either Lancaster or Paraclete on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Trinity heads up to Highland
The Knights came just a few points away from their first Heritage League title since 2019. However, Trinity dropped its five-set league match at Faith Baptist, giving the Cardinals sole possession of the league title. This is the second straight year the Knights missed out on a league title after a dropped match with Faith.
Nonetheless, Trinity (16-8, 12-2) enters the postseason with a chip on its shoulder and the veteran group is ready to take it out on the Division 6 bracket, where they could potentially have another shot at SCCS should both local teams make deep runs.
The Knights will open up on the road with the Golden League runner-up Highland Bulldogs (22-9, 12-2).
Trinity is led by middle blocker Jordan Hahn and outside hitter Emerald Lipis. Hahn has made an impact everywhere and led the team’s attack, block and serve.
Highland will be fighting for its first playoff win in two years while Trinity is aiming to return to at least the CIF quarterfinals for the fourth time since 2018.
The Bulldogs host the Knights on Thursday at 6 p.m.