Owls turn it around in a hurry

The Laguna Blanca girls volleyball team took one step closer to a fourth-straight trip to the CIF finals, taking awhile to get going before taking out Arrowhead Christian 19-25, 25-16, 25-12, 25-17 in Hope Ranch on Saturday night in the CIF Division IV-A playoffs.

“Our girls thought that the match started at 6:30, not 6, so I don’t know who that first team was but it wasn’t Laguna Blanca,” joked head coach Jim Alzina before getting serious. “It took us a game to figure out who their hitters were and to adjust to that. Once we made the adjustment, we put two blockers on their big hitters and stacked on em all night.”

The adjustments worked like clockwork as the Owls pulled a 180-degree turn after the first game and jumped out to a 8-0 lead in the second game with Jackie Harvey on the service line.

“That was huge,” said Alzina. “To be able to start game two 8-0 was just awesome because it gave our girls such momentum. They could relax, they weren’t nervous and they said, hey, we got this big cushion, let’s do it.

“It was huge by Jackie. Huge.”

Harvey had five aces on the night and also led Laguna in kills with 14. Senior Katie Borden was also in double digits with 11 and had three blocks.

“Monica (Beltran) and I have been on the varsity for four years. We’ve gone to finals every year and this time we really want it,” said Borden.

In order to get there, the Owls will have to get by No. 1 Calvary Murrietta, a team that Laguna has already lost to this season in an early-season tournament. But Alzina’s team is playing much better now, in large part due to the emergence of freshman setter Amanda Harvey.

“I thought the big key was Amanda’s setting once again,” Alzina said. “I thought she set a really intelligent game. She’s played more like a senior than a freshman.”

“The setter position is the leader of the court so as a freshman it’s kind of nerve-wracking,” said Harvey, Jackie’s younger sister. “But I have to step in and be the best leader I can.”

“She’s a great player. I’m so happy she’s our setter,” Borden said as a vote of confidence.

Annie Varni and Jesse Ditmore also benefitted from Harvey’s precise sets, recording eight and five kills respectively. Varni added to Laguna’s strong serving performance, matching Jackie Harvey’s five aces for the team lead.

After that first game, Alzina liked what he saw.

“They’re a different team right now than I’ve seen all year and it’s the right time to peak”