A magical run took place for the Pacifica Christian Orange County High girls’ volleyball team last season.
In just its third season as a program, Pacifica Christian advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 9 championship match, losing to La Puente in a five-set thriller.
Several key contributors have returned from that team, but a new face will have to step into a position of leadership after senior outside hitter and team captain Breck Burwell graduated.
After dropping four of their first five matches this year, the Tritons came to the realization that things would not come easy. Since then, they have found ways to win as they continue to find themselves on the court.
Senior setter Allyson Scharrer had 20 assists and three service aces to lead the visiting Tritons past Downey Calvary Chapel 25-23, 25-21, 25-20 on Tuesday in a nonleague match.
Junior middle blocker Casie Carlson added nine kills and four aces for the Tritons (5-4). Freshman middle blocker Rebecca Penjoyan had six kills, and junior outside hitter Hailey MacKay chipped in with four kills and two aces.
Pacifica Christian trailed beyond the midway point of all three sets. Clutch serving helped the Tritons get out of trouble time after time.
“Obviously, it’s always a lot less stressful to stay ahead for the whole match, but we’re pulling it off,” Carlson said. “Now, we have four wins in a row, so we’re starting to find our rhythm.”
Calvary Chapel (1-7) surged ahead in Game 1 behind strong serving from Lauren Alva. She had four aces in the first set, which led to the Grizzles taking a 17-13 advantage before a timeout was called by Tritons coach Kimberly Adams.
Adams said she wanted her team to improve its serve receive, helping the Tritons extend points and get into their offense.
“Calling a timeout is reminding them to talk about those [serve receive] responsibilities on the court,” Adams said. “They know who is responsible for which serve.”
Pacifica Christian turned the tables late in the set. Carlson authored a couple of kills off overpasses, and serving runs by Scharrer and MacKay allowed the Tritons to take Game 1.
The Tritons erased a 14-9 deficit in Game 2. Carlson recorded aces on four straight points to lift Pacifica Christian to a 15-14 lead. She also had a kill that gave the Tritons set point, and MacKay capitalized with an ace.
Junior opposite Grace MacPherson had three of her five aces as part of a seven-point run that brought the Tritons from behind to win the third set and complete the sweep.
Pacifica Christian lost to La Puente 23-25, 25-17, 25-15, 21-25, 15-4 in the Division 9 final last season. While such a deep playoff run might be considered a building block, alarm bells could have sounded for the Tritons after they began the season 1-4.
“I think we were a little rusty after summer, and there were a few new [additions] to the team,” Scharrer said. “Working on our relationships on and off the court really does impact the way we play, and I think we’re starting to find our rhythm.
“I think, like anything, it takes time, and I’m excited about the direction that it is going. It was a little bit of a warmup.”
Adams applauded the leadership of the team’s returning players, as they have fostered an environment in which newcomers can come in and contribute right away.
“I think the returners have done a really good job of welcoming in the incoming freshmen and just making them feel a part of the team,” Adams said. “Each and every one of them is just wonderful at doing that.”
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