Whittier Christian repeats as Division 2A Champions
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
ORANGE – The Whittier Christian girls’ volleyball team relied on previous playoff experience and strong finishes to secure its second consecutive CIF-SS Division 2A Championship after sweeping Mayfield High of Pasadena, Saturday morning at Santiago Canyon College.
Though Mayfield took early leads in all three sets, the Lady Heralds kept their composure and eventually broke away late in each set of the 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 win.
“I think [the keys] were our experience and trust,” said Shawn Hunter, Whittier Christian head coach. “Mayfield put us out of rhythm quite a bit, but once we got into a rhythm late in games, I really feel like we had the experience and trust to cover each other, get after it and put pressure on them.”
Outside hitters Kylee Wolfe and Deanna Blaine continually pounded the Mayfield defense, finishing with 15 and 11 kills respectively, while Stephanie Stevenson played a big role in the middle with 10 kills.
Jennifer Washle orchestrated the offense with 40 assists and Nicole Santos anchored the defense with 16 digs.
“Stephanie was hitting at a really high percentage and it was working,” Hunter said. “She just happened to be on fire today, everyone did a really great job.”
The Cubs (24-2) jumped ahead by five points early in the first set and four points early in each of the second and third sets.
But each time Mayfield jumped ahead, Whittier Christian (32-6) reeled it in, tying each set at the midway point.
“It’s neat to see our girls really get after it and fight with teams, knowing that we are going to get pushed at every point, that we’re the bulls eye, it’s a lot of fun” Hunter said.
The Lady Heralds ended sets with runs of 10-2, 8-2 and 6-2 to claim a second consecutive championship.
After Mayfield took a 9-4 lead in the first set, the Lady Heralds went to Blaine and Wolfe outside, eventually tying at 12-12 on a block by Wolfe.
With Delaney Harris serving, the Lady Heralds went on a 6-0 run, with a Stevenson kill putting Whittier Christian up 21-17. Kylie Cooke closed the set with the team’s fourth block.
The second set ended in similar fashion, with Harris serving to a 7-0 run which put the Lady Heralds up 24-17 on a big kill by Blaine. After two points by Mayfield, the senior outside hitter would connect once more to close the set.
“She’s a very smart hitter,” Mayfield Head Coach Jon Basilio said about Blaine. “We played outside of our system and we went based off of leap. When you deal with a big, physical hitter, all you can think about is how high she jumps, which is like jumping into the sea, you lose that depth perception. In that situation, I think we needed to keep the court a lot smaller, instead of opening it up.”
With the Lady Heralds leading the third set 21-19, Washle recorded two aces, including the match-winner before Whittier Christian stormed the court to celebrate.
Natalie Johnson led the Cubs with eight kills, while Madison Forrest, Lauren Baxter and Alexandra Tulleners provided five kills each.
Cailin Beadles recorded 18 assists for Mayfield and libero Sarah Johnson led the back line with 21 digs.
“Our core group of players are sophomores and you can’t replicate this type of environment, how big it is,” Basilio said. “I don’t think we played our game today, but if we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose to the best team in 2A and that was Whittier Christian today.”
Both teams move on to the CIF State Championships, which start Tuesday. The CIF will release the bracket for the State playoffs on Sunday.
“I would love to host a home game, last season we won a title and we were the No. 7 seed,” Hunter said. “We’ll see what State says. I’d love to make a run and enjoy it this year, but I’m just happy that we can keep competing.”
[UPDATE] Whittier Christian was given the No. 4 seed in the CIF Division 2 State Championship Southern bracket and will host La Costa Canyon of the San Diego Section, Tuesday night at Whittier Christian.