LA CAÑADA — Nearly 1,900 feet above sea level, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls’ volleyball program knows a little something about altitude.
And it was all about attitude that put the Tologs in rarefied air Thursday evening.
For the first time in seven years and 15 consecutive matches, Flintridge Sacred Heart defeated rival Harvard-Westlake, 25-23, 25-27, 25-21, 25-19 to split leadership atop the Mission League standings and at least put the Tologs on track for a share of the program’s first league crown since 2006.
With the victory, the CIF Southern Section Division I-A ninth-ranked Tologs (15-3, 6-1) are now tied with the fourth-ranked Wolverines (12-9, 6-1), as both teams have three remaining league contests.
“This was so amazing. We’ve never beaten this team before, but we were ready to change that,” said Tologs senior opposite hitter Katie Conley, who finished with 13 kills and two blocks. “This is our house and we were sick of losing and we knew it was time to change that.”
Perhaps no player took a bigger role in the victory than did 5-foot-11 freshman outside hitter Kayla Lund, who was set 58 times and tallied a match-high 26 kills.
Whenever the Tologs where in need of a big kill, Lund was close by, including when the Wolverines rallied from a 10-4 deficit in the fourth game to pull within 11-7 after a kill from senior middle Airelle Strom (14 kills and four blocks).
Tologs junior captain Sofia Coffey, who finished with 56 assists, set Lund on back-to-back possessions and the freshman buried consecutive spikes to push the Tologs ahead, 13-7.
Flintridge Sacred Heart’s lead eventually ballooned to 16-7 after another kill from Lund.
Despite trailing by nine, Harvard-Westlake battled and closed to within 23-18 on a kill from senior outside hitter Jo Kremer (14 kills).
Yet, a Wolverines attacking error was followed two possessions later with the match-clincher, as Coffey fed Lund, who blistered a shot through the block attempt of Harvard-Westlake’s Mia Natsis (team-high 18 kills) to seal the win.
“Whatever it took. We were going to do whatever it took to win,” Lund said. “We wanted to win this so bad and we just worked hard to do it.”
Maybe the match’s turning point took place in the third game with the Wolverines holding on to a tight 20-19 advantage.
Lund converted a kill that both knotted the score and started a 5-0 rally that included a brilliant short service ace from junior libero Emily Develle (28 digs) that put the Tologs ahead, 24-20.
After a Wolverines kill, the Tologs closed out the win on a harmless last-second dig attempt from sophomore defensive specialist Clare Lund that dropped in between three Wolverines.
“We finally believed that we could play with this team and that we could beat them,” said Tologs Coach Ernest Banaag of his squad, who was swept by the Wolverines in the team’s first meeting in Studio City on Oct. 8. “I knew the talent was there, it was just a matter of these ladies believing in themselves and knowing that they could win.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart dashed out to a 10-3 advantage in the first game in what looked like an early runaway.
Yet, the Wolverines slowly chipped away at their deficit and tied the game at 21 after a Tologs hitting error.
The Tologs never surrendered the lead, however, going back to Lund, who gave the team advantages of 22-21 and 23-22.
A centerline violation pushed the Tologs to 24-22 and two plays later senior middle blocker Ally Clapp connected on the winning kill.
The Tologs nearly won their lone setback, which was the second game.
Flintridge Sacred Heart was down, 24-21, but rallied behind a pair of Lund kills to pull even at 24.
This time, though, the Wolverines didn’t give up the lead and eventually won, 27-25, on a Tologs attacking error.
Yet, the second game was distant memory after the conclusion of the match.
“This is such a big win for the school, but for me and my family too,” said Coffey, whose older sister Camille played with the Tologs throughout its losing streak versus Harvard-Westlake. “My sister never beat this team and it feels like we won this for her, too.”