“Give it to her!”
That’s the phrase Balboa coach Val Cubales screamed throughout the Buccaneers’ Academic Athletic Association championship win over Lowell on Nov. 11, but in the play-in round of the CIF State Division III tournament against Enterprise of Redding, he didn’t say it until the final point.
The Bucs did send the ball to standout junior outside hitter Cynthia Ngan and she delivered the final point of their 25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 25-22 win over Enterprise on Monday at School of the Arts.
Ngan finished with a match-high 23 kills, and Balboa followed up its first AAA girls’ volleyball championship in school history with its first win in a state tournament.
“I just felt they couldn’t stop her,” Cubales said. “There were moments where she created some errors from herself, but she’s been doing great.”
Balboa had a difficult time breaking through a significantly taller Enterprise block, but nearly all of Ngan’s kills and the vast majority of the Buccaneers’ successful attacks came from going through the Hornets’ block.
“Cynthia has good vision for the holes in the block and that’s why she’s been successful,” Cubales said. “She can penetrate through and go around them and that’s why we go to her.”
After controlling the first two games, Balboa (21-10) took a step back with a loss in the third after opening up an early lead.
“We were a little bit too confident and let it go,” Ngan said. “We let them take [the game] over, but we pulled it together.”
Enterprise (25-20) appeared to seize momentum again in the fourth game and took leads at 18-17 and 21-20, but the Bucs went on a 5-1 run to end the match, spurred by two kills from Ngan and a block from senior middle blocker Sandy Nguyen.
Adding emphasis, the block came on an attack from Enterprise standout sophomore outside hitter Kristin Dapaoli, who led the Hornets with a team-high 18 kills, to give the Bucs a 24-22 lead.
“We’re a really young group and I start four sophomores, so it’s been a roller-coaster ride all year long,” Enterprise coach Mike Haworth said. “If we would have lost in three straight, it would have been hard for us to take and drive back home, but we fought really hard the last couple of games and that’s something we can build on.”
The road only gets tougher for Balboa, as it advances to take on top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral today. The Irish beat the Bucs 25-15, 21-25, 25-14, 25-21 in the first match of the regular season, but the win was far from comfortable.
“It was the first time we had [Sacred Heart head coach] Margi Beima call timeout [against us],” Cubales said. “She called two timeouts and we were up in game four, and took a game from them. We have to figure out ways to stop their big hitters, but I think our defense has gotten better and we’re definitely excited to give it our best shot.”
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