Brynn Sofro
Brynn Sofro reaches high to block South Torrance’s 6-5 middle Jen Wroblicky. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The San Marcos girls volleyball team has been in a “refuse-to-lose” mode since mid-September.

The Royals continued their winning ways Saturday night with a thrilling come-from-behind five-set victory over South Torrance in a CIF-SS Division 3 second-round playoff match at the Thunderhut. 

San Marcos rallied from a 2-0 deficit against a tall and potent South Torrance squad and gutted out a 17-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-17, 15-10 victory.

The Royals (21-6) advance to a quarterfinal match against Pasadena Poly on Wednesday at home. Pasadena Poly upended second-seeded La Salle in five sets.

San Marcos received numerous contributions in the comeback win. Dynamic junior outside hitter Taylor Wilson recorded a double-double with 25 kills and 19 digs; Lefty Madison Oriskovich crossed up South Torrance’s block and put away 14 kills, including two in the fifth set; senior middle Brynn Sofro buried 12 kills and had four blocks, including.a key stuff in the fifth set, and served two aces in the set; senior lefty Bella Johnson came on strong in the third set, collecting three of her seven kills down the stretch.

Setters Ava Cole and Ashley Day stay composed and each delivered 31 assists.

“Usually, as the sets go, it’s a little more in Ashley’s favor,” said co-coach Dwayne Hauschild, “but tonight (Oriskovich) had such a good night as far as her offense was concerned, so they both ended up with 31 assists. That’s pretty impressive.”

Senior libero Grace Matthew was fabulous in digging South Torrance heavy hits and keeping balls alive off the block. She finished the night with a whopping 47 digs in the match.

Ashley Day sets Taylor Wilson for the match-winning kill for San Marcos. The Royals rallied for 5-set win over South Torrance in the 2nd round of CIF playoffs

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Wilson raved about the play of Matthews.

“She is unreal. She… I’m lost for words. I’ll be blocking and I’ll turn around and think (the ball) is not up and it’s up every time from Grace.”

In the fourth set, she made an incredible kick dig of a big hit that resulted in a kill by Sofro and followed with traditional dig that the Royals converted into a kill by Wilson to tie the score at 12-12.

South Torrance teed off on the Royals in the first set behind the hitting of the athletic Kai Lopez and 6-5 middle Jen Wroblicky.

San Marcos tightened up its defense in the second set and started to make plays. The Royals took a 19-16 lead only to have the Spartans come back with a three-point run to tie the score.

A spike off the block by Wilson tied the score at 23, but Wroblicky scored in the middle and the Royals hit long on the next play to fall 25-23.

Lefty Madison Oriskovich

San Marcos lefty Madison Oriskovich hits past South Torrance blocker Ava Arquisch. Oriskovich had 12 kills. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

There was no panic on the San Marcos side. The Royals had been in this situation before. They rallied for a five-set win against Westview of San Diego in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions back in September and won two more matches to reach final, losing to Division 1 power Mira Costa.

They went unbeaten in the second half of Channel League and beat a strong Arroyo Grande team before entering the playoffs.

“Personally, I thought of it as a challenge,” Wilson said of the 2-0 deficit against the Spartans. “We’re down two games, come at me. We’re going to come firing, we’re going to bring our heat.

“We did just that. We played for each other and as a team, and it was just incredible.”

She said the talk in the locker room after the second set was: “We got this. Let’s just clean up a few things. Pedal to the metal, let’s do our thing.”

Wilson got the Royals going in the third set and Oriskovich came through with some big kills and a solo block to spark them to a 17-11 lead. 

Johnson then got hot and buried three kills to increase the lead to 22-15. Wilson found the floor on an off-speed shot and blasted an angle before South committed a hitting error to give the Royals a 25-15 win in the third set.

“They just went for it,” Wilson said the of lefties Oriskovich and Johnson. “They’re both competitive and were really going after it, and it was just  amazing.”

Said Oriskovich: “Having a left-hand advantage really helps. It moves around their block and it mixes them up.”

Madison Oriskovich of San Marcos scores on a block during 5th set in CIF 2nd-round win over South Torrance

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The fourth set remained close until a pair of Sofro aces and a South hitting error gave San Marcos a 16-13 lead. 

“Brynn has been playing fantastic,” said Hauschild. “It was Brynn that kind of turned the tables a little bit on them.”

Grace Matthews

Libero Grace Matthews picked up a whopping 47 digs for the Royals. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The Royals went on 5-1 run, scoring on Wilson tip over Wroblicky for a side out, a kill by Oriskovich, a back-row kill from Wilson and a hit off the block by Fionna Pennington to go up 21-15.

San Marcos finished the set with three straight points: Cole fed Sofro in the middle, South Torrance hit the ball out and Brooke Moore put the ball away after a brilliant one-handed dig by Wilson.

Sofro continued her stellar play, helping the Royals jump out to a win 6-3 lead in the fifth set. She sided out and served two aces. 

San Marcos got a big break in their scoring run when a South block on Wilson was ruled out of bounds, which angered the Spartans’ coach.

Oriskovich put away two more left-handed kills, Sofro had a huge stuff block on the outside, Matthews served an ace and the Spartans hit the ball long to put San Marcos up 12-7.

Hauschild noted that South Torrance flipped its line-up, so he did the same and that put Sofro against the 6-5 South middle.

“It worked in our favor and Brynn was spectacular,” he said.

Oriskovich blocked an overset, South hit another ball long and Wilson finished the comeback with kill.

Brynn Sofro stuff blocks a South Torrance attack. Sofro played a huge game in the middle

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) October 27, 2019

Hauschild said he talked to the players about continuing to grind when they were down 0-2.

“You just keep grinding, just keep working, just keep doing the things that you are supposed to do to get on,” he said. “And that’s exactly what they did.

“They held their ground, they worked hard and they kept chipping away, and then we got the other team to fall backwards a little bit and we kept pressing forward. It was fantastic to see them get that victory.”

Noozhawk Sports Editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.