La Cañada’s Kerstein earns Rio Hondo League MVP

Progress and growth were defining characteristics for the La Cañada High girls’ volleyball team in the program’s best season in five years.

The Spartans finished 22-7 and claimed the program’s 23rd league championship and first outright Rio Hondo League crown since 2012. The team also advanced to the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

If that wasn’t enough, La Cañada defeated city rival Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy this season, while also notching a rare road victory at league foe Monrovia.

It was in the backdrop of such success that several Spartans received accolades on the All-Rio Hondo League list.

Leading the way, senior outside hitter Chloe Kerstein, who’s headed to Pomona-Pitzer College, was named the Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player.

“I’m really surprised,” Kerstein said. “It feels great. I’m so thankful for my team and my coach and everyone who’s helped me improve my skills.”

Kerstein may have been her team’s most versatile athlete as she finished second on the squad in kills (338) and aces (57) and third in digs (293).

“She just improved in every facet,” La Cañada coach Chris Sullivan said. “She improved her passing, her back row defense and her offense. She used to be a three-rotation player and has now become a complete player.”

It’s Kerstein growth from a player who subbed frequently to one who never left the court that most stands out to her.

“I felt like I worked a lot on defense and passing to play all six rotations,” Kerstein said. “I just wanted to be able to help my team as much as possible.”

Kerstein was one of six Spartans lauded by the league.

Senior libero Elizabeth Gannon, sophomore outside hitter Emily Weirick and sophomore middle blocker Claire Kevorkian were voted to the first team.

Gannon was a vital cog in the Spartans defense and tallied a team-leading 444 digs, 60 assists and 51 aces.

“She’s been a starter for three years and played phenomenally this past year,” Sullivan said. “She’s taken a step forward each year and is a core player at the heart and soul of this team.”

Weirick led the Spartans in kills (342) and aces (60) and was second in digs (310).

“What she’s done is pretty impressive because it’s only her second year at outside hitter,” Sullivan said. “She spent most of her time at [defensive specialist] and libero and is just growing into her body. She does everything well and we’re excited about next year.”

Kevorkian led the way in blocks (54) and was third in kills (162).

“Claire was dominant, especially in league,” Sullivan said. “She hit .468 in league, which is almost .500, which is crazy. To lead our team in blocks as a sophomore is incredible and she’s come a long way.”

Spartans senior outside hitter Sophia Bang was named to league’s second team after she tallied 97 kills.

In a surprise, senior setter Hailey Belcher was named an honorable mention after finishing with 816 assists, 234 digs and 53 aces. That designation bothered Sullivan.

“That’s definitely disappointing,” Sullivan said. “If she’s not the best setter in league, she’s at worse tied as the best setter. I know she’s not the tallest person, but she’s a great teammate and motivator. She deserved better than honorable mention.”

andrew.campa@latimes.com

Twitter: @campadresports

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