LA CAÑADA – With the La Cañada High girls’ volleyball team on the rise and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy enduring a rare off-season, Saturday evening’s 10th annual Dig for the Cure match between the city rivals was the most competitive in years.
One last spirited rally provided the host Spartans the slimmest of victories, 25-14, 16-25, 25-21, 17-25, 16-14 over the Tologs in an emotional nonleague match that lasted 2 hours, 5 minutes.
The triumph snapped a four-match, four-year rivalry losing streak for La Cañada (11-4), which last defeated the Tologs in 2012.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve beaten them and I’m just so proud of how we battled back,” La Cañada coach Chris Sullivan said. “We were down by five in the fifth and to fight back and to come back, to believe in each other and fight and win, it’s just special, it really is.”
La Cañada sophomore outside hitter Emily Weirick led her team with 26 kills and two aces, libero Elizabeth Gannon tallied 35 digs and setter Hailey Belcher finished with 47 assists.
Junior outside hitter Megan Lund paced Flintridge Sacred Heart (5-12) with a season-high 20 kills, while senior setter Cate Doud totaled a whopping 55 assists and libero Maddie Pernecky added 22 digs.
Flintridge Sacred Heart was dominant in a 25-17 triumph in the fourth set to pull even and jumped to a 10-5 advantage in the fifth game.
The five-point lead remained at 11-6 before La Cañada rallied behind a kill and ace from Weirick to pull within 11-9.
Even as a service error put the Tologs up by three, La Cañada caught Flintridge Sacred Heart at 12 and thenagain at 13.
The Tologs first hit match point, 14-13, on a kill from Lund, but La Cañada’s Chloe Kerstein (14 kills and two aces) knotted the score at 14 on a kill, while a centerline violation gave the Spartans a 15-14 advantage.
Finally ahead, the Spartans secured the victory on a kill from Weirick.
“Honestly, it feels amazing to win,” said Gannon, a senior, who picked up her first win in the series. “That couldn’t have gone a better way, especially in five. It was so competitive and we fed on the energy of the crowd. It was awesome”
Though the fifth set was a back-and-forth affair, most of Saturday’s match wasn’t, as the Spartans and Tologs took turns putting on impressive displays.
A jittery Flintridge Sacred Heart squad committed errors on its first nine offensive possessions in the first set and La Cañada pounced to the tune of a 10-3 advantage.
The Tologs pulled to within 14-12 on an attacking error, but the Spartans pushed back with eight straight points capped on an ace from Kerstein to lead, 22-12, and eventually win, 25-14.
Flintridge Sacred Heart also had its spots of dominance in the second and fourth sets.
The Tologs broke a tie at 7 in the second set with a 14-4 run to go up, 21-11, on a kill from Emily Smith (15 kills) in a 25-16 victory.
Flintridge Sacred Heart never trailed in the fourth set as it ran to an 11-3 lead and a 25-17 victory on a clinching block from Leela Anvekar.
Outside of the fifth set, the third game was also up for grabs and finally decided when the Spartans scored the last three points, with the winner on an ace from Kerstein to claim a 25-21 win.
Sophia Bang added eight kills for La Cañada.
Courtney Rasic tallied 13 kills for Flintridge Sacred Heart, while Skylar Bowyer added five blocks and Ryan Dubb finished with 11 digs.
“The takeaway today is that we can always get better,” Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Ernest Banaag said. “It’s not a good feeling to lose to La Cañada, but moving forward, it’s always a learning experience. We have a lot of young girls that have never been thrust in this position and now it’s about learning to deal with nerves.”