Glendale Adventist Academy volleyball rises early in quest for CIF title

It will be the earliest the Glendale Adventist Academy girls’ volleyball team will have played a match this season.

And it’s one with championship aspirations and history on the line.

Top-seeded Glendale Adventist (21-5) will strive to win the school’s first CIF Southern Section crown when it faces Santa Clarita Christian (19-6) in the Division IX championship match at 9 a.m. Friday at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

The Cougars, who tied for second in the Liberty League with Providence, punched their ticket to the program’s first championship match after rallying for a 19-25, 25-21, 15-25, 25-16, 15-13 semifinal win at Faith Baptist on Tuesday. Santa Clarita Christian, which placed third in the Heritage League, notched a 25-13, 25-21, 25-22 semifinal victory against third-seeded Mammoth. The Cardinals will make their second trip to the finals in three years, having lost to Upland Christian Academy in 2015.

“We’re used to playing in the afternoon or at night,” Glendale Adventist coach Gared Luquet said. “It will be a bit different playing in the morning, but we’ll block out all of the distractions and we’ll find a way to figure out things quickly.

“We have a school of about 125 students and the school is very excited about going to CIF.”

Glendale Adventist outside hitter Elyse Knipschild collected a team-high 19 kills, including five in the decisive fifth set, versus Faith Baptist. Knipschild added four blocks.

The Cougars also received 44 assists, five aces and four kills from setter Liana Salvador.

“We found a way to get contributions from a lot of people and we had to dig deep in winning the last two sets,” Luquet said. “I was still in a little bit of a shock after we came back and we didn’t play our best in the first three sets. We just found a way to win at the end.”

Salvador helped elongate the Cougars’ playoff journey.

"I think we believed we could have made it the finals from [the beginning] of the playoffs and win it,” Salvador said. “Now, we're one step away."

It doesn’t figure to be easy for Glendale Adventist, which has also beaten Pacific Lutheran, Carpinteria and L.A. Sacred Heart of Jesus in the postseason..

Santa Clarita Christian has busted through its half of the bracket. The Cardinals, coached by Darcy Brown, have topped San Jacinto Valley Academy, University Prep and second-seeded Rancho Christian.

“They beat Providence earlier in the year and lost twice to Faith Baptist,” Luquet said. “They’ve done a great job in the playoffs.”

Win or lose on Saturday, Glendale Adventist will make more history as it has already clinched a berth in the CIF State Division V playoffs, which will begin Tuesday with pairings released on Sunday.

charles.rich@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich

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