Speed bump presented by San Marino could be blessing for LC

SAN MARINO — One win was enough to satisfy the San Marino High girls' volleyball team Tuesday afternoon. The Titans took the third set in dramatic fashion from Rio Hondo League-rival La Cañada, despite ultimately ceding the match to the Spartans, 25-9, 25-21, 24-26, 25-10.

But while one set may seem somewhat inconsequential, it was no small feat seeing as it was the first Titans set win in a match against La Cañada since 2006.

"It was all heart. It seemed as if their skills were just extra," San Marino Coach Allan Vince said. "I am so proud of those girls. The girls just came together as a team. They kind of played with the same focal mind set."

The one-game slip aside, the win also served in the continuation of Spartans dominance over the league, as they closed out the season undefeated again with their 58th straight league win in wrapping up their ninth consecutive league crown.

"It's a big game for San Marino with senior send off day. I knew it would be kind of tough." La Cañada Coach Brock Turner said. "It was nice to kind of get pushed. To come here and get pushed like this right before the playoffs is kind of a blessing in disguise."

After a prematch ceremony to honor the San Marino seniors, the first set got underway with the Spartans (21-10, 10-0 in league) absolutely dominating right from the first whistle. La Cañada cruised to a 25-9 opening-set win, but the challenge began in the second set.

The two teams played close throughout, with the Spartans holding a slight edge. While La Cañada was strong on the block, without a key blocker, 5-foot-11 Spartan Claire Hilsen, the Titans (20-5, 7-3) were able to sneak several shots past the Spartans and capitalize on mistakes.

"In the first game, we were just kind of feeling it out," Vince said. "But we quickly understood how their hitters got most of their points so the defense stepped it up and I think we played their strengths."

The Titans opened the third set with a 5-2 lead. The Spartans quickly came back to tie, but the San Marino defense dug nearly every ball and it was La Cañada that came out on the wrong end of several rallies.

After a timeout with La Cañada up, 21-18, an ace by Spartans setter Kirstie Shurie extended the lead to four points, which would be the largest deficit that the Titans would allow. San Marino won the next two points to pull within 22-20.

La Cañada won two points to go back up by four, but that's when the Titans shut the door. With a packed crowd on the edge of their seats, the Titans scored six unanswered points to take their first set against the Spartans in five years.

However, the high was short-lived for San Marino, as the fourth set went much like the first, with the Spartans controlling the game and winning, 25-10.

"I was real proud of how they responded in the fourth game," said Turner, who is now looking toward the playoffs. "That's a real good sign going into CIF."

Junior outside hitter Micaela Anderson was the star of the game, as she was nearly unstoppable for the Spartans. Anderson tallied 21 kills and assisted in two blocks, ending nearly every big rally of the contest.

"She just swings and takes no prisoners," Turner said. "She's great on all of the shots — the tip shot, the roll shot — but today, especially, she was great with the blast high off the hands."

Kendall Walbrecht did it all against the Titans, notching 14 kills and assisting in five blocks. Shurie connected with all hitters for 44 assists and also had five aces.

For San Marino, Kathleen Sloan led the offense with nine kills and three blocks, including one solo.

Vince was especially proud of the effort that his San Marino squad gave in an attempt to send eight seniors out with a win over the Rio Hondo champs in their final home match.

"Their heart was the thing that got them on the floor," Vince said.

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