WVB: Canyons takes State Championship spot from SBCC

All-American outside hitter Emily Bible had 20 kills and 13 digs on Tuesday night, leading No. 4 Canyons to a 3-1 women’s volleyball upset of No. 1 SBCC in a Southern Cal Regional Final at the Sports Pavilion. The scores were 22-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-17.

The Cougars (25-2) won their 15th straight match and advanced to the State Championships, which will be at Canyons in Santa Clarita this weekend. Their last loss was a 3-1 decision to SBCC on Sept. 30.

Shannon Friend had 16 kills for the Vaqueros (25-4), who suffered their first home loss in 13 appearances this year.

“We rely a lot on our passing and our passing broke down at crucial times,” said coach Ed Gover. “It was a good match and we had a great opportunity at 22-22 in the third to take the lead but we couldn’t capitalize on it. When you have two teams fighting for a spot in the State Championships, it’s the team that makes that play that makes a big difference.”

Alize Bricot and Alexa Hesseldenz combined on a block to make it 24-22 Canyons. The Vaqueros tied it at 24 on a kill off the block by Friend and a block by Kaitlyn Clemann but Canyons took a 2-1 lead with a 26-24 win on a tip kill by Hesseldenz in the middle and a soft hit that went in the net by SBCC.

Clemann added nine kills and All-State player Katelynn Womack had eight kills and a team-high 22 digs. Isabella Thompson made seven kills and three blocks. Tristen Thompson dug 19 balls and setter Shiloe Parsons dished out 41 assists. Paige Sabin had six blocks, including three solo.

The Cougars jumped ahead 9-4 and the Vaqueros pulled within three at 15-12. The visitors went on an 8-2 run to stretch the margin to 23-15.

Bible had five kills in the last set and Brooke Garelick capped the 25-17 win with an ace serve that trickled off the top of the net and down.

Both teams played high-quality volleyball throughout the night.

“These are the last four teams in Southern Cal and it should be top quality,” said Gover. “Their passing stayed steady when it needed to and ours didn’t. I think we had some nervous kids out there.

Friend notched seven kills in the opening set, when the Vaqueros used a 13-4 run to open a 19-11 lead. The visitors got within two (24-22) on a block before Isabella Thompson capped the win with a reach-back roll shot.

Canyons broke open a close second set with a 13-5 burst for an 18-12 lead. Santa Barbara closed within two on a COC error at 22-20 before three SBCC hitting errors led to the 25-21 defeat.

The Vaqueros went on a 9-2 run and took a 17-11 lead in the third set when Clemann hammered a back-set from Parsons. Canyons responded with a 7-0 run to take the lead at 18-17. The Vaqueros were up 20-18 but Bible made a few kills from the 10-foot line and a couple of digs to spark the Cougars.

“You have to tip your hat to Bible, she was a step above,” Gover noted. “They made the digs when they needed them and made the runs when they needed to. We didn’t have an answer tonight.

“When they made that big run (in the third set), we could not get out of that rotation which we normally would.”

The Vaqueros won their fourth straight WSC North title this year and finished fifth in the State for the second time in four seasons. The 25 wins were the second-most in school history in a season.

“This was a special group, they bonded together like a family and worked hard,” said Gover. “They’re a special team because they’re unified as a group. They did everything together and there was a tightness to this group that made them unique over every other team that I’ve had.

“That’s why they got through so many hurdles in the course of the year. That unity helped us beat Mt. SAC (rallying from an 0-2 deficit in a 1st-round playoff match) when it looked like we were going down in flames. They battled back in that one. Tonight, we ran out of our lucky charm.”