Thoroughly exhausted from a five-game victory over El Modena, La Habra outside hitter Zrinka Kristich somehow mustered the strength to clamp a bear hug on Principal Tom Triggs and lift him off the ground.
Kristich had 39 kills as the Highlanders won their third consecutive Southern Section 3-A girls’ volleyball championship with a 15-4, 11-15, 15-8, 11-15, 15-11 victory Saturday night at Cerritos College.
Kristich, a 6-foot-5 senior who’s headed to UCLA on a basketball scholarship, had nine of her kills in the fifth game as the top-seeded Highlanders (21-2) won their 17th consecutive match.
After lifting her team to victory, Kristich lifted Triggs with a hug for the second consecutive year. Triggs, surprised by the move last year, could only laugh this time.
Kristich said she was drained after the match. Besides leading the team in kills, she also had six blocks and an ace. “I was so tired,” she said. “That, (and) my mouth felt like it had cotton balls in it.”
It also was the second consecutive year La Habra and El Modena met in the finals. La Habra swept the Vanguards last year.
But this year’s match went the distance. La Habra had a 12-11 lead in the fifth game when El Modena began setting the ball to middle blocker Marni Hichborn, who had a team-high 22 kills.
But La Habra was ready and waiting. Kristich blocked Hichborn twice to make it 14-11, and Jackie Kelley blocked Hichborn on match point to give the Highlanders the victory.
Afterward, El Modena Coach Craig Tefertiller wondered if his offense might have been too predictable in the fifth game. Sophomore Lynnett Anderson (18 kills) had played a big factor throughout the match, but didn’t get many sets down the stretch.
“Lynnett was pounding the ball out there,” Tefertiller said. “She was really lighting it up. She’s back next year, so I guess she was the silver lining in all this.”
El Modena (21-2) lost in the finals for the third time in the past four years. The Vanguards lost to Sunny Hills in 1988 and to La Habra last year.
“We got to the point this year where we didn’t want to talk about winning it anymore,” Tefertiller said. “I really feel for the seniors. Marni’s a four-year starter and (setter) Melizza Benitez is a three-year starter.”
Blumenthal, who lost two section finals before winning her first in 1989, said she understood how Tefertiller felt.
“I have mixed emotions right now,” Blumenthal said. “I’m glad we won, but I would have been happier beating someone else.”