GVB: St. Monica ousts Laguna Blanca in first round

Laguna Blanca's Caylin Zimmerman (5) and Phoebe Madsen (4) turn to see if Laurel Kujan can make a diving dig. (Presidio Sports Photos)

Laguna Blanca’s Caylin Zimmerman (5) and Phoebe Madsen (4) turn to see if Laurel Kujan can make a diving dig. (Presidio Sports Photos)


By the time Laguna Blanca found its groove on Tuesday night it was too late for the Owls, who dropped a first-round CIF match to visiting St. Monica. Game scores were 25-23, 25-20, 9-25, 28-26 in the Division 4-AA match.

“Fully stunned. Not a dry eye in the room. Tons of waterfall tears,” was how Laguna Blanca head coach Jim Alzina described the feeling after the match. “You go to the finals last year and you have a lot of girls back and you really don’t expect to lose in the first round. I don’t know if we’ve ever lost the first round.

“But I also don’t know if we’ve ever had this draw. That was a really good team right there. They played excellent defense.”

St. Monica, from Santa Monica, came into the match unranked while the Owls were the No. 7 seed.

“I think they played amazing,” said Mariners head coach Cori Ueda about her team. “Probably one of the best games all season in terms of being able to convert points and really turning the game around.”

St. Monica's Savannah Cragin meets Laguna Blanca's Phoebe Madsen at the net.

St. Monica’s Savannah Cragin meets Laguna Blanca’s Phoebe Madsen at the net.

The first two sets belonged to the Mariners with Nia Allen and Chanel Smith dominating the net, and Trinity Gray, Victoria Bachawati and Savannah Cragin digging just about everything Laguna put over the net. St. Monica continually exploited a soft spot in the middle of the Laguna defense with tips and roll shots.

But St. Monica crumbled in the third set as the Mariners’ digging disappeared and Laguna’s serving improved. Hannah White and Phoebe Madsen put together extended service runs that allowed Laguna Blanca to easily win the set and seize momentum.

It carried over into the fourth set as Laguna grabbed a 12-4 lead. The Owls were still up 19-13 when St. Monica reeled off six straight points to tie the match at 19-19. Laguna Blanca gained the lead again at 22-19 and had two set points at 24-22.

After St. Monica tied the match at 24-24, Laguna Blanca fought off two match points before finally succumbing on an ace by Allen.

“In my timeout I just told them we really have to dig deep here,” Ueda said. “Show who we are. We have the skills, we just need to be mentally tough and really prove it on the court if we want to go far in these playoffs.”

Allen led St. Monica with 13 kills. Emily Lafitte led Laguna Blanca in that department with a game-high 20.

Cragin finished with eight kills and 18 digs. Bachawati also had 18 kills while Audrey Kim collected 10.

St. Monica advances to play Shadow Hills in Thursday’s second round. St. Monica finished third in the Camino Real League.

Laguna Blanca was a finalist last year in Division 4AA and reached the State Tournament. The Owls lose three seniors, including Hannah White, but have six freshman on the team and have Madsen and Lafitte returning for their senior years.

“Hannah White is the best leader I’ve seen here in my tenure at Laguna. She leads by example, she stays positive with the other girls, the girls respect her, she’s a very tough competitor, and did an excellent job this season.”

White had 13 kills in the match. Sophia Fay and Kendall White led the team with seven digs each. Madsen dished out 41 assists. The Owls wrap up their season with their 13th-straight Condor League championship and an overall record of 18-6.


Tuesday's match was the final game at Laguna Blanca for senior Hannah White.

Tuesday’s match was the final game at Laguna Blanca for senior Hannah White.