Courtney McCutchan and the La Cañada High girls’ volleyball team had high hopes and big dreams for 2008 — and those dreams were realized.
The Spartans won their first CIF Southern Section Division II-A championship in 32 years.
The Spartans were a perfect 10-0 in Rio Hondo League play, never even dropping a game.
They ended up losing to Redlands East Valley in the second round of state competition, snapping a seven-match winning streak. A loss sure, but it did little to dampen the historic season.
On a team full of seniors, junior Courtney McCutchan led the Spartans in spirit and statistics.
McCutchan paved the way for her team with a remarkable season, tallying 411 kills and 60 aces — best on the team in both categories — to go along with 237 assists — second-best on the team.
McCutchan was instrumental in helping the 28-8 Spartans roll to a CIF championship.
It is because of those accomplishments that McCutchan was unanimously voted the 2008 All-Area Girls’ Volleyball Player of the Year by the sports reporters and editors of the Crescenta Valley Sun, Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.
“It takes individuals who can lead their team to their goals, and Courtney McCutchan was one of those individuals,” Spartans Coach Brock Turner said.
Throughout the year, McCutchan displayed an intensity that sparked her team.
“Courtney demanded 100% from herself and she expected that from each of us,” Spartans teammate Molly Teodo said. “She loves volleyball more than anyone else I know and that showed when she played.”
Even in light of all of her accomplishments, McCutchan was disappointed by the way her season did finally end. She also had some difficulty at the beginning of the season, as well.
“I had a hard time adapting without having my sister on the team,” said Courtney, whose sister, Kim, graduated last year. “We were really close. That was hard, going to practice and not having her there.”
The Spartans started out slow this past season, as three of their eight losses came in the first two weeks.
But this was a team that had played together for years. McCutchan competed alongside libero Tara Rallis and Woodford on the San Gabriel Club Volleyball team, a squad that claimed national glory.
The Spartans took little time finding their rhythm in league, as they didn’t come close to dropping a contest.
Entering the postseason as the No. 1 team in Division II-A, the Spartans had dreams of a championship. They were nearly stopped twice, though, once by Oak Park in the quarterfinals and another in the finals against La Reina — losing the first and third games in both. There was a point, after they lost the first game of the championship match, that the Spartans thought their dreams were ending.
“We were feeling confident going in,” McCutchan said about the La Reina match. “Then we lost the first game and it was a flash of reality, like, ‘Wow, this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought it was.’
“It crossed my mind [that we might lose], but I tried to keep that out of my mind, because if we focus on losing, we wouldn’t have won.”
But La Cañada came back, winning the fourth and fifth games in both the quarterfinal and the championship matches. McCutchan had 13 kills in the 21-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 15-13 win against La Reina, including three big kills in the fifth game.
There is no rest for the weary, however. McCutchan, a 16-year-old with a 4.0 grade-point average, turned in her volleyball uniform and picked up her basketball uniform one week after the season ended.
McCutchan is having the same impact in basketball as she did in volleyball, as she is La Cañada’s leading scorer.
She’s been getting into what her basketball coach Tamar Hill calls “basketball shape” and has been putting up double-digits in scoring in nearly every game thus far.
“The first game, my shot wasn’t on, but it’s coming back,” McCutchan said.
The Spartans, on the strength of McCutchan’s play, are off to a stellar start. But with another year left, her mind is never far from volleyball, and she hopes the Spartans can repeat their glory.
“I’m obviously satisfied with this one [CIF championship],” McCutchan said, “but I won’t settle for just one CIF championship. I’m going to keep on working for another one.”