Pacifica Christian, in white, reacts to a loss in the CIF Southern-Section playoffs against La Puente on Saturday at Cerritos College.(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
Since the start of the CIF Southern Section playoffs, life had been a dream for the Pacifica Christian Orange County girls’ volleyball team.
The Tritons did not drop a set in advancing to their first section championship game in the brief history of the program.
An opponent finally cracked the code, and it was La Puente that emerged victorious in Saturday’s Division 9 championship match.
Kimberly Boring had a match-high 19 kills and 18 digs to lead the Warriors to a 23-25, 25-17, 25-15, 21-25, 15-4 win over the Tritons at Cerritos College.
The junior outside hitter ended the match with a powerful swing of her right arm, handing La Puente (12-10) its first section championship in program history.
“Before the fifth set, we told each other that we had to give everything that we had because it was our last set,” Boring said. “Half of our team was our seniors, so obviously, we’re going to miss them. We told them that we just had to give everything that we had, and we put it all out there.”
Leilani Guzman had 10 kills and 17 digs for the Warriors. Johie Noetzel added 36 assists to go with six service aces, and Kiara Amigon provided 30 digs.
Pacifica Christian (15-9) won Game 1, but after La Puente rallied from a 15-5 deficit to knot up the first set score at 22-22, the Tritons knew they had a match on their hands.
“It was really real,” senior opposite Maddy Alaluf said. “We were like, ‘Wow, we are here in the finals,’ and ‘Wow, it is really happening.’
“I think that was a mind check on us, saying, ‘We need to focus and we need to get our heads ready.’
“We [had] never lost a game in postseason, so I think maybe we weren’t ready for that.”
While the Tritons went through their struggles with execution, senior outside hitter Breck Burwell was a steadying force in a critical fourth set. She led the Tritons with five kills in the game, two of which tied the score at 17-17 and 18-18.
After a kill by Hailey MacKay broke another tie at 21-21, Allyson Scharrer rattled off three straight points on serve to send the match to the fifth set.
La Puente won the first five points of the fifth set, four of which came on hitting errors by the Tritons.
“It’s a great experience,” Tritons coach Kimberly Adams said. “They haven’t had an experience like this playing on center court with all these fans. It’s definitely a learning experience. Every loss, I want my team to learn from, and this is a great one.”
Burwell had a team-high 11 kills and 18 digs for Pacifica Christian. MacKay had 10 kills, Alaluf added eight kills and 23 digs, and Casie Carlson added seven kills. Scharrer had 35 assists and led all players with seven aces.
“Being able to even come to the finals means a lot to us,” Alaluf said. “This has never happened to us. I think this opportunity is awesome to be a part of.”
The school was all-in. Pacifica Christian athletic director Brandon Gonzalez brought a large order of orange shirts bearing the words, “The Wedge,” to the match. The Wedge is the name of the Tritons’ cheering section, and they were behind their team for all five sets.
“They’re amazing,” Adams said. “They brought it, too. We’re really thankful for all the parents and family and friends that showed up today.”