Lancers knock off Spartans in Dig for the Cure

LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE - On a night in which the La Cañada High and La Salle girls’ volleyball squads gathered to fundraise in the hope of finding a cure for cancer, the visiting Lancers best displayed the values of teamwork in a 25-19, 25-14, 25-18 nonleague victory at Saturday evening’s fourth annual Dig for the Cure match.

La Salle (25-2), which entered ranked fourth in Division I-A of the CIF Southern Section, boasted four players who tallied six or more kills and eight overall participants who chipped in at least one point.

“For the most part, we just make sure we spread it around,” said La Salle Coach Tiare Tuitama, whose team has fallen to La Cañada the last two seasons. “We didn’t go too much to [senior right side hitter] Jessica [Kennedy] because we knew their tallest blockers were on the right side. But our middle, Riley [Spriesterbach], she stepped it up big time and Katrina [Palffy] did very, very well.”

While Palffy, Kennedy and sophomore outside hitter Haley DeSales are some of the more known commodities in the Lancers’ arsenal, on Saturday Spriesterbach found herself in the thick of the action with seven kills and five blocks.

Coming off a lackluster defeat in the second game, the Spartans (9-8) put together their strongest effort in the third game and took their biggest lead, 12-10, on a Lancers’ centerline violation.

Yet, La Salle scored four of the next five points in going up, 14-13, before La Cañada tied the game again on a kill from senior outside hitter Micaela Anderson, who finished with nine kills and two aces.

The tie was short-lived, however, as the Lancers gave themselves some breathing room behind a 7-1 spurt that included three kills from Spriesterbach, who teamed with Palffy on a combo block of La Cañada’s Lauren Streeter, which capped the run and pushed the Lancers ahead, 21-16.

While La Cañada trimmed its deficit to 22-18 on a kill from senior Kendall Walbrecht, who led all scorers with 10 kills and three blocks, the Lancers closed the game with two kills and block from Palffy.

“This was awesome. We did not expect to beat them in three. We definitely thought it was going to be very tough,” Spriesterbach said. “I really stepped it up in this game because we have friends on La Cañada and we know each other and how we play and I just came out strong.”

While the Spartans were mostly competitive with the Lancers, each game was earmarked by a specific run, including when La Salle scored the initial six points of the first game on the serve of setter Alyssa Tavera (31 assists).

La Cañada fell behind by as many as nine points before pulling within 21-18 on ace from Leigh Sclafani.

Yet again, La Salle closed the match with a 4-1 flurry that ended on a kill from Palffy, who paced La Salle with nine kills and 12 digs.

“We just got beat by a better team,” La Cañada Coach Brock Turner said. “We didn’t play well, but give credit to La Salle. I liked our passing overall, but we were too inconsistent in other parts.”

In the second game, La Salle broke up an 8-4 advantage with a 12-6 run and never looked back.

Junior middle blocker Renaissance Forster finished with six kills and two blocks for the Lancers, while DeSales added eight kills and three aces and libero Caroline Knop tallied 25 digs.

While La Salle jumps back into Del Rey League play, La Cañada hosts second-place South Pasadena in a huge Rio Hondo League showdown at home on Tuesday.

“This was a big match, but so is that one,” Turner said. “The good thing is that this loss doesn’t hurt as much as one on Tuesday would.”

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