by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
CORONA – The Whittier Christian girls’ volleyball team saw its storied season come to an end, falling to Santiago of Corona 3-0, Saturday night in the second round of the CIF State playoffs at Santiago High.
The Lady Heralds overcame a slow start and competed with the Sharks throughout, but couldn’t figure out outside hitter Cheyenne Richards, who recorded 16 kills in Santiago’s 25-19, 25-21, 26-24 victory.
Santiago moves on to face Westview of San Diego in the Southern Regional finals.
“They have two very good outside hitters and so do we,” said Shawn Hunter, Whittier Christian head coach. “It was a battle of outsides tonight, but I think their ball control was a little cleaner than ours and that gave them an edge. We were out of system a lot tonight and it’s tough to run an offense from 10-to-12 feet off the net.”
Senior outside hitter Chanel Hoffman added 13 kills for the Sharks (39-0), while setter Jessie Prichard totaled 35 assists.
While the outside hitters were scoring points for Santiago, Whittier Christian’s outside hitters were mirroring for the Lady Heralds.
Deanna Blaine led with 15 kills, Kylee Wolfe added 10 and Stephanie Stevenson finished with eight from the middle.
Jennifer Washle finished with 35 assists and Nicole Santos led the back line with 17 digs.
Down 2-0, the Lady Heralds got off to a quick start in the third set and built an 8-3 lead. That advantage would hold up in large part to the outside hitters, with six kills from Wolfe and five from Blaine, until Whittier Christian made it 23-17.
However, realizing they were in danger of dropping their first set at home all season, the Sharks went on a 7-0 run to take the lead, 24-23.
In the run, Richards came up with two kills and middle blocker Alexandra Kloehn scored with two blocks and a kill.
After trading points, Richards gave the Sharks the advantage with the kill. Santiago won the final point when an attack by Wolfe sailed long.
“It was very nice to see the way our girls didn’t want to quit, that should have been Whittier Christian’s set,” said Arlen Elvik, Santiago head coach. “We did not have an answer for [Blaine], but they just don’t quit, it’s been that way all year.”
With the score tied 5-5 in the first set, Richards’ serving put the Lady Heralds out of system, leading to a 6-0 run. Later, Hoffman added three kills and two aces to help Santiago stretch the lead to 19-10.
But two aces from Delaney Harris, along with a block and three kills by Blaine made the set more competitive before Hoffman finished it with a kill.
“We just started slow tonight and it’s tough to do that against a good team like Santiago, they just went on a couple runs in the first two sets that took us out of it,” Hunter said. “They’re a great volleyball team, I’m excited with how my girls competed against them.”
Stevenson made a difference for Whittier Christian to start the second set, scoring her team’s first four points with kills from the middle.
But late in the set, Santiago gained separation with strong play on the front line. Richards blocked a shot, while middle blocker Makayla Wolfe came away with two kills in a crucial stretch that helped put the Sharks up 2-0.
Natalie Betancourt led Santiago with 20 digs and Hoffman added 10.
Whittier Christian’s season ends with an overall record of 33-7. The Lady Heralds will lose eight seniors to graduation.
“This group of eight kids has played together since junior high and they came in here and exceeded expectations, exceeded potential,” Hunter said. “Being in Division 2, a little school like ours, it’s great to see them compete in that way, I’m extremely proud of them.”