SOUTH PASADENA — La Cañada High is the 10-time reigning Rio Hondo girls volleyball champion, but late in this league campaign, the Spartans are in the unfamiliar position of being in second place looking up in the standings.
Earlier this season in their first matchup against South Pasadena, the Spartans lost in four games.
The rare setback brought an end to their 69-match league winning streak, which dated back to Oct. 6, 2006. Back then it was also the Tigers who got the best of them.
In the rematch Thursday, South Pasadena took care of business once again, this time on its home floor, defeating the visiting Spartans 25-17, 25-18, 18-25, 25-12 to essentially conclude the Spartans' title run as the league schedule dwindles down.
"Let's give a lot of credit to South Pass," La Cañada Coach Brock Turner said. "They're up two games with three to play, but we haven't given up completely. Like I told the girls, we're going to fight to the end."
La Cañada (8-13, 5-2) had won against all its Rio Hondo competition since the end of its streak and carried a four-match winning streak into the rematch, but now will once again have to start a new streak.
On Thursday, the stakes were higher than the first meeting as the second loss of the year to the Tigers, ranked No. 9 in CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA, has taken a potential 11th consecutive Rio Hondo title out of the Spartans' direct control. A win would have given them a share of the lead, but now they need help to keep their championship streak alive.
South Pasadena was led with 24 kills by outside hitter Claire Kieffer-Wright. The senior, who also had nine blocks and two aces on Thursday, now has 43 kills in her two matches against La Cañada this season.
La Cañada scored the first three points of game one, but then Kieffer-Wright entered the action and the Tigers went on a 15-4 run.
In game two, the Tigers' advantage peaked at eight at 18-10 and the Spartans got no closer than six before Kieffer-Wright finished the game at 25-18 with a two-handed stuff block.
In game three, La Cañada fell behind, 4-0, before tying the game five times before pulling ahead for good winning by seven. However, South Pasadena cleaned up its play in the fourth game and won handily, 25-12. The final point came on a Sophia Hathaway kill that went off Spartan Melissa Horner to end the match. Hathaway had 10 kills and two aces.
La Cañada was led in the kills department by Taylor Page with 13 kills. Fellow junior Jenna Gray added 11 kills. Middle blocker Megan Arnold also turned in a quality effort with eight kills, five blocks and one ace.
"We all just went out there and played our hardest," Arnold said. "This was the best game we have played as a team. I just love the energy we had out there and that we play really classy volleyball. It was a really hard loss for us, but we'll get them next year."
La Cañada's Rio Hondo title hopes are not completely gone. Both the Tigers and the Spartans have three league matches to go. So, if La Cañada can take care of business against Monrovia, San Marino and Blair and South Pasadena stumbles against at least two of its remaining league foes, the Spartans can still emerge from this season of new faces with the familiar prize of another Rio Hondo league title.
"After 10 years of being at the top people come after you, but that's fine," Turner said.