Volleyball: Owls, Chargers make finals; Dons knocked out

Laguna Blanca’s girls volleyball team hadn’t had to deal with too many deficits coming into Tuesday’s CIF Division IV-AA Semifinal match against No. 2 St. Margaret’s.

The sixth-ranked Owls were 20-1, having not lost a set in Condor League play and sweeping all but three of their other opponents on the year.

They found themselves in foreign territory after just a few minutes against the Tartans, trailing 14-6 in the first set.

“We’ve never had a deficit like that in any match… There was absolutely a big concern because I didn’t know if we could handle it,” said coach Jim Alzina.

They handled it and then some, roaring back to win the set and take the match 25-23, 12-25, 25-23, 25-18 in front of a raucous crowd at Merovick Gym.

It is the sixth time in nine seasons that Laguna Blanca has made it to the championship match, with the school’s lone title coming in 2006.

Jackie Harvey put up big numbers as always, racking up 26 kills while Jessie Ditmore had 13 put-aways with nine blocks. Ditmore also served three consecutive aces down the stretch in the fourth set to put the match out of reach.

“It was a really different feeling because we’ve never had to come back like that, but we did it. Pulling away in the fourth game felt amazing,” she said.

Community West BankThe Owls chipped away at the Tartans’ first-set lead until a roof block by Heidi van den Oever and Amanda Harvey tied things up at 17-17. St. Margaret’s committed four unforced errors over the next seven points to give Laguna a 21-20 lead and force a timeout by the visitors, bringing the entire the home crowd to its feet. A few points later, with the score knotted up at 23, Amanda Harvey dished a reverse quick set to Ditmore who put it away to force game point. A block by Ditmore then closed out the set.

The first set wasn’t the only one in which the Owls had to dig themselves out of a hole. They also trailed 9-3 in the third set before going on a 7-point run to retake the lead. The surge included three kills from Jackie Harvey — two that were made possible by great digs from Anna Dwyer — and an ace from Amanda Schulenberg.

“It always comes back to serving and passing, and once we started passing we climbed back into those games,” said Alzina. “Our girls stayed so positive the whole time, and that’s one of the things we stress here.”

Defensively, Dwyer notched 18 digs while Lillie Hodges shoveled up 16 and turned some tough deep serves into perfect passes.

The Owls will play either fifth-ranked Viewpoint, which handed them their only loss of the season, or top-ranked Whittier Christian on Saturday at Cypress College.


The top-ranked Chargers (29-2) are back in the Division I-A championship game for the second straight year after sweeping host No. 5 Laguna Beach 25-23, 25-23, 25-13.

Sally Yingst had five kills and 17 digs while Carly Wopat had 12 kills and sister Sam Wopat added 11.

“It feels great. These girls are competitive and they take it seriously, and it makes my job a lot easier. They treat it like they’re showing up for work,” said first-year coach Todd Garrett.

The coach said that the team got down to Laguna Beach fairly early, and his team started to build up some nervous energy in the hour before the match that may have worked against them in the first two sets.

“I think we were a little too wound up, and we left the door open in those first two, but I think they settled down eventually,” he said.

Yingst, a senior headed for UC San Diego, said she would have liked to have a rematch of last year’s final against Santa Barbara, which DP lost in three games at Rob Gym, but ultimately is just happy to be back to the final round.

“Yeah, it would have been fun to play them again in that atmosphere, but Huntington Beach will be good to and we’re in the finals either way,” she said.

The starting time for Saturday’s match at Cypress College has yet to be announced.