From a historical standpoint, tonight’s Southern Section 5-A girls’ volleyball semifinals offer some rare opportunities for El Toro, Laguna Beach and Capistrano Valley.
Unseeded Laguna Beach (20-2) will meet third-seeded Capistrano Valley (21-4) in a semifinal match tonight at Dana Hills High School. Unseeded El Toro (17-3) will play top-seeded Lakewood St. Joseph (17-0) at Capistrano Valley in the other semifinal.
Although Laguna Beach, El Toro and Capistrano Valley have been volleyball powers in Orange County the past several years, only Laguna Beach has reached the section finals.
Laguna Beach won the 4-A title in 1976 and finished second in 1978 and ’80 But the Artists haven’t been to the finals since.
El Toro, which shared the South Coast League title with Capistrano Valley this season, has had 20 players compete at Division I colleges in the past six years. But the Chargers have yet to reach a section final.
The Chargers have been to the semifinals three times in the past six years, including last year, when they lost to Mira Costa.
El Toro Coach Mike Jagd said he’s not surprised to see two South Coast League teams in the semifinals.
“Not at all,” he said. “From the very beginning of the year, I thought the polls were a little skewed because of the order people played each other.
“I felt we were one of the top three teams, as well as Capistrano Valley. Now only confirms how I felt at the beginning--that St. Joe, Capo Valley and El Toro and Laguna were clustered together.
“I told the kids that anyone who comes out of our league and goes into the playoffs will be a good team and can get to the finals. Everything now is just party time for us. We’re just playing for fun.”
Both semifinals are rematches from the regular season.
St. Joseph beat El Toro, 15-13, 15-12, in pool play at the El Camino tournament in September. “They have a couple of good hitters and they’re very scrappy on defense,” Jagd said. “They’re a duplicate of what we do.”
Laguna Beach swept Capistrano Valley in three games in the finals of the Orange County Championships in September. But the Cougars played without starter Tobi Roquemore, who was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Laguna Beach has as much talent and balance as any team in the section. Outside hitters Rachel Wacholder and Tori Scott average double figures in kills, and setter Shauna Shapiro runs the offense.