Rolling Hills bests Laguna Blanca in 4-A semifinal

TORRANCE – If you’re gonna go out, this is the way you want to do it.

The Laguna Blanca girls volleyball team ended its CIF run in a nail-biting 5-set semifinal at Rolling Hills Prep in Torrance on Tuesday night. Set scores were 27-25, 19-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-10.

“We really battled, and it hurts but we left absolutely everything on the court,” said senior captain Courtney O’Donnell. “That’s a really good team we played against.”

The Huskies had a big-time weapon at their disposal in 6-foot-3 senior Marjana Phillips, who routinely detonated balls in the middle. A few of O’Donnell’s 11 digs came from Phillips spikes, but for the most part the Huskies senior was unstoppable.

“It’s hard to block her because she’s such a big girl. We just had to try to dig in defensively and keep the rally alive when she got a good set,” said O’Donnell.

Fellow senior Bella Taron had 11 kills and 15 digs for the Owls, while sophomore Hannah White led the way offensively with 15 put-always on the night.

The Owls (14-5) trailed 7-2 early in the first set but stormed back to take a 19-15 lead. The see-saw kept tipping en route to a 24-24 tie before the home team pulled it out.

Junior setter Clara Madsen served the first four points of the second set to give Laguna Blanca a lead it would not relinquish. Little sister Phoebe Madsen made a highlight-reel dig of a Phillips blast late in the set as the Owls tied it at 1-1.

A 6-2 lead in the third evaporated into an 11-12 deficit for the Owls, but freshman Luisa Cameron got the night’s first block of Phillips to give her team a 13-12 advantage that the visitors held on to.

Up against the ropes, the Huskies passed well in the fourth game and were able to feed Phillips set after set, as she put away four kills in the last five points of the game.

Nerves showed for both sides as the teams combined for five missed serves and a host of hitting errors in the final game. Phillips put away a set at 8-8 to give Rolling Hills a lead, and Before the Owls knew it the set and the season slipped away.

The program graduates four seniors, but a sizable contingent of underclassmen returns next year to pursue a twelfth consecutive league championship and the program’s second CIF title.

“The future is bright. We had freshmen and sophomores playing big roles in this match,” said coach Jim Alzina. “Right now, I’m very thankful to the great seniors we had this year.”