LA CAÑADA — After enduring an incomprehensible few weeks, the La Cañada High girls’ volleyball team closed out the regular season celebrating senior night at home.
The Spartans saw their head coach depart in mid-September, went on a four-match losing streak in league play and, now, were set to say good-bye to five seniors.
In the end, La Cañada found a comprehensive win by sweeping Blair, 25-10, 25-10, 25-8, in the Rio Hondo League finale at home Wednesday.
“It has been a crazy season,” La Cañada interim coach Carolyn Brain said. “The takeaway here is that this is an incredibly talented team. They really are physically talented, mentally tough and are also young. We have the most returning players next year, and what has thrown us off this year — injuries, our head coach leaving midseason — it’s just another element that changes the game for you.
“If we hadn’t had so many obstacles this year, we would’ve gone much, much further this season.”
In what is likely its final match of the season, La Cañada (10-14, 5-5 in league) — the defending league champion — received a game-high 12 kills from freshman Olivia Toland, while senior Kimberly Callister had eight kills and setter Mia Jones dealt nine aces.
The Spartans finished fourth in the six-team league and did not earn an automatic playoff spot.
The Spartans’ flexed their serving muscle throughout the match.
In all, La Cañada had 25 aces, led by Jones’ nine. Claire Saydah added six and Isabella Ignatian and Katherine Albano each contributed three.
“Our serve throughout the year has been a good weapon for us, “ Brain said. “It was helpful to know that whoever I put back there, they were going to do good serves and do their hardest. ”
The teams got off to a chippy start, amassing two errors each as the two were tied at 5 before the Spartans broke away on a 4-0 run for a 9-5 lead.
La Cañada held its ground as Blair (1-12, 0-10) tried to battle back and pulled within 11-10. But, again, the Spartans pulled away. Jones had four aces and Toland totaled three kills for a 14-0 Spartans run to close out the first set.
“We wanted to play to our potential,” Jones said. “We wanted to play our game and finish on a high note because we’ve had so many ups and downs this season. We just wanted to finish strong, and that’s why all the serves [were accurate].”
As Jones continued to serve in the second game, La Cañada bounced to a 4-0 lead before Blair chipped away at the Spartans’ lead to make it a one-point advantage, 6-5. The Spartans then went on a 9-1 run for a 15-6 lead and closed out the second game on an Erica Oh kill.
The Spartans held their own in the third set and prevented the Vikings from coming within one point of their lead. Blair only cut the deficit to 11-5 before the Spartans embarked on another run.
“Having good energy and confidence in ourselves helped us boost the serves and not bring us down,” Toland said. “Mentality is the most important thing in the game and we had a good mentality through the game.”
Toland’s kill propelled the Spartans to a 11-0 run that ended with a La Cañada 21-8 lead before Oh sealed the deal four points later.