LOS ANGELES — Fresh off winning its first league championship since 2011, the Holy Family volleyball team looked to remain on an upswing heading into the postseason.
Holy Family put together a superb regular season, resulting in a split with L.A. Sacred Heart of Jesus for the Horizon League title.
Seeking a lengthy playoff run, Holy Family began its postseason drive Thursday when it met Villanova Prep in a CIF Southern Section Division VIII first-round match.
Unfortunately for Holy Family, it struggled at times on defense and its playoff drive was cut short after visiting Villanova Prep posted a 25-14, 25-18, 25-16 win at Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter.
“We didn’t know much about Villanova Prep coming in, but they have a very good team,” Holy Family coach Robert Bringas said. “When you get into the playoffs, you know you’ll be facing a good team and we did.
“They had a pretty good middle attack and we just needed to play better defense. That’s been one of our main strengths throughout the year and we just could get it going.”
Villanova Prep (12-5) received 14 kills from Grace Wells and 10 from Kyle Lenehan to turn aside Holy Family (19-14).
The Wildcats, who finished second in the Frontier League behind Cate before sweeping Pacific Lutheran on Tuesday in a wild-card home match, built early leads in each set to apply pressure on the Gaels.
“We were just a little off early in each set and I thought we could battle back after the first set,” said Bringas, whose team reached the Division IX second round last season following a second-place finish in league.
A kill by Lenehan gave the Wildcats an 8-4 lead in the first set. Later in the game, Elsa Tam had a kill down the middle to extend the lead to 18-6. Villanova Prep finished the set on a 5-2 run that featured an ace from Tam.
In the second set, Villanova Prep took a 12-7 lead on a kill from Jessika Salazar. Holy Family closed to within 20-18 on a kill from Meghan Velasquez. The Wildcats ended with a 5-1 run that featured four straight kills from Wells.
Holy Family showed improvement in the third set, taking a 12-11 lead. However, the Wildcats used an 8-4 run to grab a 19-16 advantage. Villanova Prep closed out with another late surge to complete the sweep.
“We played hard, but we just couldn’t get on any long runs,” said Velasquez, a reigning All-Area first-team pick who finished with 14 kills and 20 digs. “We didn’t play as well as we could have and we played a good team.
“I think we continued to get better since the summer individually and we will have a good team next year.”
Holy Family got 18 assists and 15 digs from Michelle Barraza, 38 digs and six assists from Kaylee Hernandez and seven kills and seven blocks from Cyndel Lopez.