Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball sweeps aside champs

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE - For all the peaks and valleys the members of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball team has encountered this season, there's been one constant that's worked in their favor - mastering the defending league champion.

The Tologs proved it once earlier and had a second opportunity to showcase their skills and try to conquer powerful Sherman Oaks Notre Dame again on Thursday night. The chance wasn't squandered, perhaps leaving the door slightly ajar to grab a possible at-large playoff berth.

Behind 14 kills from Katie Conley and 23 digs from Colleen Degnan, host Flintridge Sacred Heart picked up a 26-24, 25-21, 25-23 home win.

Flintridge Sacred Heart, which defeated Notre Dame in the first meeting Oct. 9, improved to 8-10, 5-4 in league. Notre Dame, ranked seven in the latest CIF Southern Section Division I-A poll, dropped to 18-8, 6-2.

"It's a perfect point in the season to get a big win like this," said Degnan, a libero and the lone senior on the team. "We went out there and beat them twice because we played without any fear. 

"We were not scared, and we know that we can play against anybody. It says a lot about our team that we have been able to beat them twice."

Notre Dame got 16 kills from standout rightside hitter Susannah Muno, but the Tologs were able to neutralize the Knights' other top players in front of a boisterous crowd.

Flintridge Sacred Heart, which is in fourth place in the six-team league, rarely let Notre Dame go on an elongated run and often short-circuited its momentum.

"I certainly didn't expect a sweep, but we will take the win," said Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Ernest Banaag, whose team will conclude league play at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Chaminade. "Even when we were up 2-0, I told our team to not give it back.

"We are the only team in league to beat them. It just proves that all the hard work led to some good fortune. We are building momentum and we are playing the way we should be."

In the beginning of the first game, Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-2 lead. Flintridge Sacred Heart didn't blink, catching the Knights at 13 on a kill by Conley.

Flintridge Sacred Heart overcame a late 21-19 deficit by going on a 5-1 run to take a 24-22 advantage. The Knights fought off two game points in a row before one kill each by Sophia Coffey and Emily Develle closed out the first game.

Notre Dame took a 7-4 lead in the second game. The Tologs then went on a 7-0 run to grab an 11-7 lead. Muno recorded a kill to knot it at 21, but two straight kills by Meghan Lacey made it 23-21.

Conley, a rightside hitter, stepped up in the third game. Conley collected four kills and two blocks to buoy the Tologs.

"For the past few weeks, I was in a little bit of a rut," said Conley, who recorded a kill to make it 7-4. "I had to play that much harder and show no mercy.

"I think we were able to go out there and put up some good blocks against their solid hitters. They are the reigning league champions, and it feels good to beat them twice."

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