Sacred Heart Prep bound for state title game 

After dropping the first two sets of the CIF-Northern California Division IV girls’ volleyball championship in stunning fashion to Notre Dame (Belmont), the entire Sacred Heart Prep girls’ volleyball exited the gym for two minutes to regroup.

With the entire crowd looking around wondering where the Gators had disappeared to, the gym doors burst open, and in came what looked to be a brand-new team.

The Gators knew that in order to play for the state championship on Saturday, they had to sweep three straight sets against a very formidable opponent. And they did just that.

Sacred Heart Prep’s impromptu players’ meeting sparked a furious comeback that eventually led to a riveting 19-25, 14-25, 25-14, 25-16, 15-9 victory over Notre Dame, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. It was the fourth meeting this season between the two squads. Notre Dame won the two regular-season meetings, but SHP captured the Central Coast Section title game on Nov. 20 and then the biggest prize Tuesday night.

SHP coach Damien Hardy admitted after the game that he was skeptical of his team’s chances of overcoming such a big deficit.

“I kind of thought it was over,” Hardy said. “But then I had to think back to how this team got here. This team just never quits. It’s almost as they enjoy playing from behind. They have kept us on the edge of our seats for the entire season, and tonight was not any different.”

With the victory, Sacred Heart Prep now moves on to the state finals Saturday at the San Jose State Event Center, where it will take on La Jolla Country Day from Southern California at noon.

Notre Dame’s Brooke Baldwin had a remarkable 25 kills. However, only 10 of them came in the last three sets as Sacred Heart’s entire squad was diving all over the place to prevent points, something it was unable to do in the first two sets.

SHP junior captain Sarah Dashbach stepped up for her squad when it needed her most.

After being down 4-0 in the third set, and on pace to be swept out of their own gym, the Gators were able to gain serve and get the ball in the hands of Dashbach. She led Sacred Heart on a 5-0 run with her terrific serves, and the team never trailed again in the set.

Dashbach finished the night leading the Gators with 16 kills and 18 digs.

Also playing a huge role in the comeback effort for the Gators were Olivia Bertolacci and Jesse Ebner, who combined for 23 digs and nine blocks.

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Eugene Brooks

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