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Lincoln volleyball finishes dream season in second-place

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Lana Radakovic, seen here Nov. 25 against Sonora, led Lincoln on Saturday with 14 kills. (Courtesy Eric Sun)
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ORANGE — Lincoln’s storybook volleyball season ended at the state finals with a second-place finish, as the Mustangs fell to Point Loma of San Diego 25-18, 25-18, 27-25 in the CIF Division III title match on Saturday.

Lincoln, the first San Francisco Section team to reach the state volleyball championship, was led by Lana Radakovic with 14 kills and a .429 attack percentage. Jasmine Yun contributed 7 kills. Setter Caitlyn Chin dished off for 25 assists and added 3 kills. Sarah Blumenfeld had 14 digs and libero Gabriela Hernandez had 12 digs. The Mustangs closed the season with a 36-9 record.

“I’m really proud of the girls overall,” Lincoln coach Vince Tang said. “We didn’t really play the game we thought we would, but we tried to grind out points.”

Point Loma, returning 13 players from a team that lost the Division IV final to Menlo School last year, finished 23-12, and was led by Charlie Ekstrom, a Stanford beach volleyball commit, with 17 kills and 13 digs, and Sierra Caffo with 16 kills. Maggie Wolf passed for 38 assists.

“Point Loma was very versatile,” Tang said. “Their pin hitters have size and skill and they can hit from the back row.”

“They were taller and they could hit over our block,” Blumenfeld said.

The defeat did not mask the phenomenal accomplishments of the Mustangs. Along the way to the state title appearance, Lincoln became the first San Francisco public school team to even win a NorCal match (and they won four).

San Francisco section champ Lowell, who edged Lincoln in five sets for the section title, also won a NorCal match and fell in five sets to powerful Carlmont, an early-season victor over Archbishop Mitty.

Lincoln rebounded from the loss to Lowell with a spectacular NorCal run, sweeping Drake and Christian Brothers and then shocking Santa Catalina in Monterey. That four-set victory, paced by Radakovic’s 25 kills, vanquished a foe that was 27-0, had not lost a set in over two months, and was close to inclusion in the Open Division.

The Mustangs followed that with a four-set victory over Sonora, who had three straight road wins, including a semifinal defeat of perennial power Los Gatos. The 25-19, 19-25, 25-17, 25-17 Lincoln victory put them on the road to southern California to meet Point Loma.

“It feels unreal to get to state,” Lincoln co-captain Chin said. “I’m speechless. When we lost the league title to Lowell, it pushed us to work harder.”

“The loss was a wakeup call,” Blumenfeld said. “We got determined and we got a chance to make history.”

Point Loma had talent, height and experience, and played a strong schedule, including powerhouses Torrey Pines, second in the SoCal Open Division, and Sierra Canyon, who won the Division II final.

“That number 21 [Radakovic] is great and it shows,” Point Loma coach Paul Araiza said.

Point Loma drew away to a 23-16 third-set lead but Lincoln charged back strongly. A 9-1 run put the Mustangs on top 25-24. Blumenfeld and Radakovic each had two kills and Chin poked the ball to the Pointers’ deep corner to put the Mustangs on top.

“We wanted to win the league title,” Tang said. “After that, we knew we had the opportunity to win some more matches and make some noise. We did. This is uncharted territory.”

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