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VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS : Wolverines Hold Fast in Sweep of Wilson

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Malaika Naulls and Jenni Kriste weren’t about to let go of each other.

For all they cared, an assistant coach would have to pry them out of their celebratory embrace.

Eventually, the girls ended their bearhug several minutes after Harvard-Westlake High overwhelmed Long Beach Wilson, 15-6, 15-4, 15-8, in the Southern Section Division II girls’ volleyball semifinals Thursday night at Long Beach Wilson High.

Naulls and Kriste, two of several who contributed to the second-seeded Wolverines’ effort, had trouble fathoming they had finally reached the championship match. Harvard-Westlake (22-1) will play top-seeded Bishop Montgomery Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Cypress College.

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“This takes my breath away,” said Kriste, who had eight kills, four blocks, three aces and 27 assists. “Our dream’s to go to the finals.”

Reality has arrived.

The Wolverines were efficient on offense and downright mean on defense, blocking attempts aplenty by third-seeded Wilson (17-1).

Kriste, who will play for California in the fall, and Naulls (nine kills) were dominant.

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Christine Bohle and Lesley Coben (seven kills each), and Lindsay McNiel (four kills, three blocks) contributed as well.

“Harvard played so efficient, they would’ve been a match for any team in the state, Division I or II,” Wilson Coach Gerry Gregory said.

Stanford-bound Jaimi Gregory, Gerry’s daughter, had eight kills and four blocks for the Bruins, who were swept in 62 minutes.

Wilson had a few spurts, jumping out on top in the first game because of a series of illegal rotations by the Wolverines.

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But the Harvard-Westlake defense, which thwarted nearly every Wilson attempt at the net, made the transition into offense an easy task.

Ditto the third game.

With the score tied at 5-5, the Wolverines turned the tide with a notable triple block on an attempt by Gregory.

Credit the official block to Coben and credit Harvard-Westlake with the third game.

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Now the Wolverines will try to avenge their only loss this season, a sweep by Bishop Montgomery.

“This is something we’ve wanted,” Naulls said.

Said Kriste: “My whole body and soul are going out there.”

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Mission Prep d. L.A. Baptist, 15-13, 15-10, 12-15, 16-14--Second-seeded Mission Prep ended the visiting Knights’ season in a Division V semifinal. L.A. Baptist finished 16-4.

Windward d. Cornerstone Christian, 15-6, 15-11, 15-10--The Eagles fell in a Division VI semifinal at Windward.

Hesperia Christian d. Thacher, 15-7, 11-15, 19-17, 15-1--The visiting Toads’ season came to an end in a Division VI semifinal.


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