State title out of reach for Sacred Heart Prep

La Jolla Country Day repeated as state champion with a victory Saturday over Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton 25-10, 25-15, 25-13 in the girls’ Division IV CIF-State Volleyball Championship at San Jose State.

Sacred Heart Prep earned a spot in the state championship after capturing Central Coast Section and NorCal Championship titles with victories in both tournaments over Notre Dame (Belmont). The Gators mounted spirited comebacks in the CCS and NorCal championships after dropping the first two sets.

But there would be no dramatic come-from-behind heroics for Sacred Heart Prep (24-11) on this day.
The Gators were outplayed by a more experienced La Jolla Country Day squad, featuring four seniors who have committed to play collegiate volleyball for Division I programs.

University of Arizona-bound championship game MVP Chloe Mathis contributed in all facets of the game for La Jolla Country Day (33-3) with 33 assists, five kills and eight digs. In addition to defending Mathis and outside hitter Lauren Birks, who will play at Stanford next season, the Gators were forced to contend with 6-foot-4 middle blocker Gillian Howard (10 kills, six blocks) and 6-1 outsider hitter Mollie Rogers (11 kills, three blocks).

“We were a little tentative in the first set, but it’s not every day that we play in a place like this,” Sacred Heart coach Damien Hardy said as his eyes pointed to the stands of the Event Center on the campus of San Jose State. “And we hadn’t faced teams like that all year long.”

A team that dropped only 10 sets and three matches over the course of the season, the Torreys’ only deficit in the match was in the second set as the Gators held early leads of 4-3 and 6-4.

The Gators showed a glimmer of hope for a miracle comeback in the third set after junior Sarah Daschbach served two consecutive aces to cut the Torreys’ lead to 14-9.

Leading the Gators with six kills, Daschbach appreciated the experience that she and her young teammates gained from the arduous path they took to gain a berth in the state championship.

“I’m excited to see how far we can get next year,” Daschbach said.

Coach Hardy agreed with his talented outside hitter and the outlook for a team with only two graduating seniors.
“Everybody wrote us off at CCS and we won it; everybody didn’t expect us to win NorCal; we won it,” Hardy said. “I wouldn’t trade these kids for any other team right now.”

Joining Daschbach next season will be junior Jesse Ebner and sophomore Sonia Abuel-Saud, both players contributing four kills in Saturday’s match. Daschbach led the Gators’ defense with 10 digs. Libero Olivia Bertolacci had nine digs in the losing effort.

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