Prep girls’ volleyball: Will youth be served for Sacred Heart?

They all shared almost the same verbatim answer and, if it’s true, the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ volleyball team seems to be in good shape heading into today’s 2 p.m. CIF Division III state championship match.

The Irish (32-10) will have three underclassmen in the starting lineup when they face Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood at the San Jose State Event Center. And while freshman setter Sidney Chukuntarod and sophomore hitters Lisa Hipp and Nicole Yap admitted there will be a little more at stake once the ball goes in the air against the Wolverines (27-4), all three seemed comfortable playing a key role in what could be the first state title in program history.

“I think there may be a few nerves, but we all know coach trusts us to be out there for a reason,” said the 5-foot-10 Hipp, echoing what her teammates had said in earlier conversations. “We keep it fun and remember we’re playing because we love volleyball so much.”

It’s a strategy that seemedto work in Tuesday’s 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 25-19 win over top-seeded St. Mary’s of Stockton in the NorCal final. Despite playing in a hostile environment at Chavez High School of Stockton against a Rams team that had ended the Irish’s season in 2006, Chukuntarod had perhaps her best match of the season with 47 assists, while Yap contributed 11 kills and Hipp added seven.

“It was really loud and the crowd was just wild,” Chukuntarod said. “It was hard to hear the plays, so we just blocked everything out and played our game.”

The 5-6 Chukuntarod was playing her game at the frosh-soph level as recently as six weeks ago, but was called up to the varsity for the stretch run and has merged seamlessly into the starting lineup.

“[Sidney] came up and had a connection with the hitters pretty much right away,” Hipp said. “And once we get on the court, we all forget about the age and how tall our opponents are or if they have a Division I [recruit]. We’re all just volleyball players.”

That’s the attitude Sacred Heart coach Margi Beima has taken as well. Even after last year’s loss to that same St. Mary’s team in the opening round of NorCals, Beima remembers spending the two-hour bus ride back to The City looking forward to the potential of her next team rather than dwelling on the past. And the confidence carried over to the young Irish from the first practice.

“Our goal when we met at the beginning of the season was to make it to state,” Yap said. “And we just looked at every game along the way as getting one step closer to it.”

State finals

At San Jose State Event Center

Saturday matches

DIVISION III

» Sacred Heart Cathedral (32-10) vs. Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) (27-4), 2 p.m.

DIVISION I

» Nevada Union (Grass Valley)

(44-4) vs. Lakewood (29-7), 5 p.m.

DIVISION II

» Mitty (San Jose) (35-3) vs. Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) (36-0), 7 p.m.

DIVISION IV

Harker (San Jose) (37-4) vs. Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach) (32-4), noon

DIVISION V

» Mount Madonna (Watsonville) (29-6) vs. Central Valley Christian (Visalia) (30-6), 10 a.m.

melliser@examiner.com  

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