It has been a steady rise for the Pacifica Christian Orange County High girls’ volleyball team under coach Kimberly Adams.
She led the program to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 10 playoffs last year. After bumping up to Division 9 this year, the Tritons are surging in the postseason once again.
Pacifica Christian swept host Los Angeles New Covenant Academy 25-15, 25-21, 25-8 in the first round on Thursday at Lafayette Recreation Center in Los Angeles.
The Tritons (12-8) will play the winner of the first-round match between Orange County Christian and Helendale Academy of Careers and Exploration in the second round on Saturday.
On Thursday, the Tritons fell behind 12-7. They relied on sophomores Hailey MacKay and Casie Carlson to spark a comeback.
“They’ve really stabilized us in the middle,” Adams said. “They just rack up kills, which builds momentum. That’s what we really needed early.”
MacKay and Carlson entered the afternoon match with 99 and 95 kills, respectively. Both rocketed past the century mark in the first two sets.
After an unforced error by New Covenant captain Hannah Hwang, Carlson went to work on the serve in Game 1. Her high-velocity shots led to an 11-point run, including three service aces to boost Pacifica Christian’s lead to 18-12.
Pacifica Christian senior Maddy Alaluf ricocheted a spinning shot over the net, catching Huskies setter Jehane Djedjro off balance to clinch the first set. Alaluf finished with four kills.
A group of Pacifica Christian parents made the 51-mile drive to the match in Los Angeles. The fans held up one finger to drive the Tritons to the final point.
“We have really, really awesome support from them,” Adams said. “We’re lucky they’re willing to brave several highways to cheer us on.”
Determined to keep their season alive, New Covenant coach Julianne Lowry and her Huskies (10-4) battled in the following set. They lost an opportunity to win the outright National League title and a better first-round draw after getting swept by Pasadena Sequoyah last week. The two schools shared first place.
The Tritons split their last four matches to finish third in the Academy League.
New Covenant and Pacifica Christian traded leads until a Carlson kill put the Tritons up for good at 8-7. While she dominated the last set with her serve, she controlled the middle in this one. In one sequence, Carlson recorded a block and two straight kills to push the advantage to 20-14.
The Huskies got as close as 21-19, before Pacifica Christian’s Maggie O’Callaghan ripped a shot, which forced a deflection out of bounds to secure the set.
O’Callaghan sustained the intensity to give the Tritons a 9-0 lead in Game 3. She drilled three kills alongside two Allyson Scharrer aces to wrap up the match.
It was a decisive effort for the third-year program.
“We only had one senior last year, so we’re young, but experienced,” Adams said. “We’ve grown a lot since last season, and it’s a great start to our playoff run.”
Adams smiled and kept her answers short. She knows her team has a long journey toward maintaining consistency.
SAM DODGE is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @samgododge