In a balmy gymnasium that had no air conditioning (it was broken), the two top girls’ volleyball teams in Southern California, Redondo and Santa Ana Mater Dei, engaged in the kind of rousing match you’d normally see only in a championship setting.
It wasn’t unexpected. Southern Section Division 1 coaches voted them co-No. 1s in their latest team rankings this week, and even though Redondo’s top player, Kami Miner, is in Egypt competing for the USA women’s youth team, the Sea Hawks’ depth helped them more than hang with Mater Dei after losing the first two sets on Thursday night at Redondo.
Redondo was able to pull out a 24-26, 22-25, 29-27, 25-20, 15-8 victory over the Monarchs.
What a comeback. Redondo defeats Mater Dei 24-26, 22-25, 29-27, 25-20, 15-8. pic.twitter.com/9RN5eIEBCq— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) September 6, 2019
“Did that really happen?” said Redondo coach Tommy Chaffins, who was offering high-fives to the student section afterward. “I felt we were on the defibrillator.”
Mater Dei was on the verge of a sweep, opening a 9-2 lead and holding a 24-22 advantage in the third set. But the Sea Hawks (14-0) rallied to keep the match alive.
“Nalani was unbelievable,” Chaffins said of Texas-bound Nalani Iosia, who usually plays libero but was forced into setting duties in Miner’s absence.
Nalani’s serves and court leadership ignited the Sea Hawks. Also playing a huge role was freshman Mele Corral-Blagojevich, who finished with 17 kills. The 14-year-old was calm and cool in her biggest match of high school yet.
“Honestly, my team helped me a lot,” Corral-Blagojevich said. “They have been in a lot of high-pressure situations and don’t put the pressure on me to be perfect.”
Asked about the comeback, she said, “It was a change of energy. Nalani really brought us up. We went out with less fear and more aggression.”
Zaria Henderson provided strong hitting for Mater Dei, and setter Mia Tuaniga turned in her usual exceptional performance.
The two schools are likely to meet again in the Southern Section and state playoffs.
Redondo rallies to win third set 29-27 over Mater Dei. Down 2-1. pic.twitter.com/uaE4kn7A2x— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) September 6, 2019
Setter Mia Tuaniga of Mater Dei is as good as they come. Headed to Long Beach State. Brother Josh led 49ers to NCAA men’s title. Quite a family of volleyball players. pic.twitter.com/hjHm3aX8gD— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) September 6, 2019
Who knew you could throw up a volleyball so high on a serve? pic.twitter.com/QJynAeSitq— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) September 6, 2019