Crusaders volleyball continues on in state

Only a few days removed from perhaps the most difficult defeat of the season, the St. Monica Academy girls' volleyball team might have just picked up the biggest win in program history.

The seventh-seeded Crusaders (25-6-1) opened the first round of the CIF State Division V playoffs with a 25-12, 26-24, 26-28, 25-22 victory at second-seeded Minarets of O'Neal in Central California on Tuesday evening.

With the win, the first-ever for St. Monica in its inaugural state playoff run, the Crusaders head south to face sixth-seeded Calvin Christian on Saturday.

Calvin Christian (25-7) earned its advancement by defeating third-ranked Alverno in another early-round upset.

"Our girls played incredible. Our serving wasn't great, but our hitting and passing made up for it." St. Monica Coach Darren Bradley said. "This was the best team we've played all season, even better than Orangewood Academy, but we also played our best."

Part of St. Monica's tenacity was shown in the second game, when the Crusaders fells behind on game-point, 24-23, only to rally behind three straight kills from outside hitter Caitlin Hall in rebounding for a 26-24.

"We heavily set Caitlin in the game and relied on her for a lot of offense," Bradley said. "She got blocked a number of times, but kept coming back."

St. Monica Academy rebounded from a difficult 3-2 loss to Orangewood Academy in Saturday's CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship match.