First published in the Sept. 22 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada High School varsity girls’ volleyball team collected a crucial Rio Hondo League win over visiting rival South Pasadena, 23-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-22, on Tuesday night in front of an electric LCHS crowd of more than 200 fans.
The Spartans gained sole possession atop the league standings while logging their third straight victory over the Tigers, dating back to last season.
The matchup between a pair of area powerhouse squads was essentially as good as advertised. The Spartans narrowly lost the first set after a late comeback victory by South Pas, but LCHS almost always found itself in control the rest of the match.
“We’ve been really looking forward to this game because we’re a team that loves competition and we really respect South Pas and the talent they have over there,” LCHS head coach Laura Browder said. “Going into this, we knew it was going to be a fight. Last year both [matchups] went to five sets. I’m really proud after we lost the first set we came back and finished the job.”
SPHS found new life in the fourth and final set, opening with a 5-1 scoring run until junior Haley Clark, who contributed 17 kills, four blocks, four digs and three aces, took matters into her own hands. After striking a kill, Clark rallied the Spartans with three consecutive aces to tie the game 5-5. Clark helped LCHS take a narrow 14-13 lead on back-to-back kills later in the set.
The Tigers didn’t go down without a fight, tying the match 22-22, but a South Pas serving error, followed by a kill and a block from Clark ended the comeback effort and sent the LCHS crowd home happy.
“I was playing a lot of my friends so, honestly, I was just looking to have as much fun as possible,” Clark said. “Before the match, we did this little pre-ritual speech thing that I think helped us all get in the right mindset. Especially after we lost that first set, I feel like we were able to compose ourselves enough to go out there and fight. In the first set, we made a lot of our own mistakes and we cleaned it up after that.”
The second set opened with a back-and-forth battle, as the Tigers took a narrow 7-6 lead. Following a South Pas serving error, senior Nikki Hughes, who tallied four kills, five digs and three blocks, posted a pair of aces to help La Cañada go on a 4-1 scoring run and take an 11-8 lead.
The Spartans extended their lead to 21-12 when SPHS was forced to call its second timeout of the set following junior Chloe Nussbaum’s ace. Hughes ended the first set by blocking a powerful kill attempt by South Pasadena’s Jenna Garner, evening the match 1-1. Nussbaum had a nice defensive night, leading the Spartans with 19 digs while adding a pair of aces.
Errors by both sides kept both teams within reach for the first half of the third set until the Spartans slowly pulled ahead with a 17-14 advantage. LCHS maintained at least a three-point lead for the rest of the game up until sophomore Ashby Zubchevich, who produced 14 kills and three aces, ended the set with a kill to give the Spartans a 2-1 sets advantage.
“We love having Ashby,” Browder said. “It’s nice any time you have a young, talented sophomore hitter. She’s a kid that isn’t afraid of the moment and loves pressure situations. I was excited to see how she was going to perform in this game.”
Purdy guided the offense by registering 30 assists while picking the right moments to add four kills. She also had three aces and a pair of blocks. Freshman Vani Tatoulian recorded three kills and two blocks, sophomore Katie McGuinness notched one kill, and junior Maya Dingle and sophomore Danica Eggleston each had one ace.
LCHS (16-3 overall, 3-0 in league) will visit San Marino in a league match on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 3:30 p.m.
LCHS 3, TEMPLE CITY 0
The Spartans collected their second straight league victory after sweeping visiting Temple City, 25-5, 25-10, 25-13, last Thursday. Zubchevich led with seven kills and one ace, while Clark registered five kills, four aces and one block. Tatoulian posted four kills, one ace, one block and one dig, Purdy produced 15 assists, two aces and two digs, and Hughes tallied two kills and two blocks. Dingle had two kills, Eggleston finished with one kill, two aces, three digs and four assists and McGuinness collected one kill and three blocks. Senior Rachael Salit notched three aces, five digs and one assist, Nussbaum had three aces and five digs, and senior Kate Shaw recorded one dig.
LCHS 3, BLAIR 0
The Spartans opened league action with a dominant sweep over host Blair High in Pasadena, 25-7, 25-5, 25-5.
Zubchevich, a transfer from Flintridge Prep, made her La Cañada debut after sitting out 30 days due to the CIF transfer rule and she did not disappoint, collecting a team-high 11 kills with four aces and a pair of digs. Salit collected five kills, six aces, one dig and one assist, Emma Reed tallied four kills, one dig and one block, and Eggleston registered 12 assists, two kills and three aces. Tatoulian posted one kill, three aces, one block and one assist, McGuinness recorded one kill and two aces, and Purdy produced two aces and eight assists. Shaw finished with two aces, one dig and one assist, Dingle had two aces and two digs, Clark notched one ace and one assist and Nussbaum had one ace.