Despite winning three consecutive Southern Section titles, the Santa Ana Mater Dei girls' volleyball team has yet to win a state championship in its numerous appearances in the season-ending tournament.
That made it important for Mater Dei to get off to a good start on Tuesday night against visiting Visalia Mt. Whitney in the first round of the State Division II playoffs.
As it turned out, the Monarchs hardly broke a sweat as they methodically marched to a 25-6, 25-12, 25-17 victory over an overmatched Mt. Whitney team that was the Central Section Division II runner-up.
It took less than an hour for Mater Dei (33-3) to sweep the Pioneers and advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday, when it will host Newport Harbor, which defeated San Diego Scripps Ranch, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-15.
The Monarchs beat the Sailors in four games in a nonleague match this season.
Mater Dei Coach Craig Pazanti benched most of his starters midway through the second game, used 16 players in all, then said that even he was caught by surprise.
"What can I say?" he said. "I had no idea what to expect. It's nice to get a win and get to Saturday. Less time in the gym; less swings is a plus. We'll take this and use the time to rest."
Junior outside hitter Mallorie Croal had 11 kills and two blocks before being lifted midway through the second game. She spent the remainder of the contest with an ice pack on her right shoulder as a precaution against inflammation.
Mt. Whitney (25-7) got seven kills each from outside hitter Kim Wynn and middle blocker Brisa Berlin.