GVB: Laguna finishes as state runner-up

Laguna Blanca ran into an opponent with too many weapons and fell in the CIF Girls Volleyball Division 4 State Championship match on Saturday.

Notre Dame Belmont took advantage of its superior size and swept the Owls, 25-14, 25-18 25-19, on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College. Both teams were playing for their first state title.

Notre Dame’s outside attack, led by 6-1 junior Katie Smoot, was too much for the Owls (26-8), the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA champions and So Cal Regional champions. Smoot had 15 of her match-high 20 kills in the first two sets and scored the final two points in the match, the last one coming on an ace serve.

“I thought we played really well at times throughout the match,” Laguna Blanca coach Jason Donnelly said. “Unfortunately, we ran into a very good team.”

Phoebe Madsen led the Owls with 7 kills and hit .320. Emily Lafitte had 6 kills and Caylin Zimmerman and Maddy Nicholson added five kills apiece.

Laguna Blanca fell behind 4-0 in the first set but fought back to 12-9. Notre Dame then went on a 7-2 run and never looked back.

The Owls stayed close in the second set until a kill and an ace serve by Smoot set Notre Dame off on a 7-3 run.

Phoebe Madsen put the ball away to pull Laguna to 6-5 in the third set. But the physical Tigers continued to pound away and opened up a 13-8 advantage on a cross-court kill by Smoot.

With Smoot’s 20 kills, Tammy Byrne’s 14, Jessica Beering’s 10, the Tiger trio combined for 44 of the team’s 52 kills. On defense, libero Katyarina Warburton picked up 14 digs for the Tigers, who play in the same league with Archbishop Mitty, which won its fourth straight Division 2 state title, and Valley Christian, the Division 3 champion.

“Yes, this was by far the best team we have played this year,” said Donnelly of Notre Dame. “They did some things offensively that we had trouble defending consistently, which hindered our ability to score real points (points scored on our serve).”

Laguna Blanca kept battling but Notre Dame (32-10) was just too powerful and solid overall.

Still, the Owls completed the most successful season in the history of Santa Barbara area girls volleyball.

“We competed until the last point today and I was really proud of our girls,” said Donnelly.