GVB: Owls get it done in 3, advance to state regional final

Laguna Blanca advances to the CIF State Regional final.

Laguna Blanca advances to the CIF State Regional final. (Presidio Sports File Photo).

Laguna Blanca held off comebacks from Alta Loma in all three sets and advanced to the CIF State Division 4 Regional Final with a 31-29, 25-23, 25-23 sweep on Saturday night at Dos Pueblos High’s Sovine Gym.

The top-seeded Owls will host Division 4A champ Desert in the regional final on Tuesday at a site that will be determined on Sunday. The winner of that match will play for the Division 4 State Championship against the winner of the Northern Regional on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.

No volleyball team from Santa Barbara has ever played for a state title.

Laguna spread its attack around in beating Alta Loma for the second time in a week. The Owls won in five sets in last Saturday’s CIF-SS Division 4AA final at Cerritos College.

“We knew it was going to be a close match,” Laguna Blanca coach Jason Donnelly said. “We jumped all over them early and at the end of those games we gave up some runs. But we stayed composed and we were able to get it done, especially in that first game. We were kind of lucky in that first game, but to win 31-29 we played composed. Even when we didn’t play great we didn’t panic, and that’s sort of been our MO for the last two months — just have fun and play. They were relaxed and when you’re playing like that things come together.

“All three games went to deuce and we were pretty good in each game.”

The Owls went ahead 23-19 after an Emily Lafitte ace, but a pair of passing mistakes and a block by Alta Loma’s Kylie Szczepanski tied the score at 23. A tip by Laurel Kujan put Laguna at game point, 24-23, but the Braves answered with a Szczepanski tip. The score went back and forth until a serving error by Alta Loma gave Laguna a 30-29 lead. A double-hit call on a Braves’ set gave the Owls the winning point.

In the second set, Emily Lafitte went on a nine-point serving run for a 14-7 Laguna lead. Consecutive kills by Maddy Nicholson took the Owls a 23-15 lead before Alta Loma chipped away and pulled to 24-23 on a block by Szczepanski. Laguna went to Phoebe Madsen after a timeout and she hit a ball off the block for the winning point.

Down 23-19 in the third set, Alta Loma went on a three-point. Laguna called time out and the Braves committed a serving error. The Owls followed with a serving error to make it 24-23. Madsen  finished the match with a hit into the far corner.

Donnelly said a key to the win was containing Gabrielle Oddo, Alta Loma’s top hitter She finished with 14 kills but didn’t go on any lengthy scoring runs.

“We didn’t want her touching the ball. We wanted her to work for everything and think that’s why we were able to get it done in three,” said Donnelly.

The Owls were led by sophomore Caylin Zimmerman, who smartly used tip shots en route to 11 kills.

“She’s been working on her approach mechanics all season,” Donnelly said. “Waiting has allowed her to see (the court) a little bit better. That’s the first time she’s gotten multiple kills via tip and they were great because they came at critical times and they were well-placed.”

Nicholson played a solid match, finishing with 7 kills on a .580 hitting average.

“She’s a stud,” Donnelly said. “She just makes big swings for us. She’s not afraid to take a swing”

Lafitte served five aces and had eight kills. Kendall White picked up 14 digs and Madsen had 20 digs, 23 assists and four kills.