Lady Heralds storm past La Costa Canyon into CIF State second round
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
Last year in a first-round CIF State Southern Regional playoff match, the Whittier Christian volleyball team struggled against a 6-foot-2 middle blocker in a 3-1 loss at Martin Luther King High in Riverside.
The Lady Heralds were faced with the same test against La Costa Canyon’s 6-foot-3 outside hitter Brittany Abercrombie, but overcame the challenge in a 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-15) victory at Whittier Christian High, Tuesday night.
Whittier Christian (33-6) will face undefeated Corona Santiago, Saturday in the second round of the CIF State Southern Regional bracket.
“We knew that their opposite is a great blocker and we tried to stay away from her and spread our offense,” said Shawn Hunter, Whittier Christian head coach. “We wanted to put pressure on them and keep them guessing.”
With the Lady Heralds leading 1-0 and the second set remaining close, Abercrombie’s hitting overpowered Whittier Christian late as La Costa Canyon tied the match.
However, the Lady Heralds continued to put pressure on the Mavericks (25-10) in the final two sets, taking La Costa Canyon out of system and making Abercrombie less of a threat.
Deanna Blaine, who led the Lady Heralds with 20 kills, was asked to help guard Abercrombie’s side and finished the third set by blocking the senior outside hitter.
“After winning the first set, we knew that beating them was doable,” Blaine said. “We just refocused and tried to recall what worked when we beat them in the first set and tried to go back to that.”
Kylee Wolfe added 15 kills and 14 digs, while Stephanie Stevenson finished with 10 kills for the second consecutive match.
Jennifer Washle tallied 47 assists and 12 digs.
The Lady Heralds against suffered from slow starts in the first three sets, but La Costa Canyon was never able to take complete control.
In the first game, Whittier Christian took control on a 4-0 run that included two aces by Blaine, leading to a 16-13 lead, which the Lady Heralds wouldn’t relinquish.
La Costa Canyon struggled on serve early, totaling six service errors in the set.
But the Mavericks wouldn’t go quietly. With the second set tied 18-18, Abercrombie notched three kills to give La Costa Canyon the edge. The Mavericks won the set when a Whittier Christian serve sailed long.
“I wanted to continue to put pressure on them, I felt like we had a Game 2 lull,” Hunter said. “I thought they came back and fought better, we knew they weren’t going to miss those serves in the second set, they didn’t and they put some more pressure on us.”
With the score tied 10-10 in the third set, Blaine put together four kills to give Whittier Christian control. Later, Wolfe added a pair of kills and an ace before Blaine ended the set by blocking Abercrombie.
Behind an early 6-0 run, the Lady Heralds took control of the fourth set. Blaine scored six kills and Wolfe added five in a dominant set that sent the Lady Heralds to the second round of the Southern Regionals for the first time since 2009.
Abercrombie finished with 17 kills for the Mavericks, while fellow outside hitter Cady Francis added seven. Setter Emma Anderson tallied 37 assists.
The Lady Heralds now turn their attention to CIF-SS Division 2AA champion Corona Santiago. The two will face off Saturday night at Santiago High.
“Win or lose, coming off of [CIF-SS playoffs], it’s such a long toll and you feel like you’re at the end of the season and it can be tough to continue to focus,” Hunter said. “I’m proud of what they did tonight…. Now we get to play the No. 1 team. It’s going to be fun to see what we can do.”