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Girls Volleyball

Laguna Blanca Wins Long Rallies in Sweep of CIF 2nd-Round Match

Laguna Blanca freshman Natalie McCaffery hits against Pioneer’s Katelynn Coronell as Owls teammates Kelly Bickett, left, and Caylin Zimmerman look on. Click to view larger
Laguna Blanca freshman Natalie McCaffery hits against Pioneer’s Katelynn Coronell as Owls teammates Kelly Bickett, left, and Caylin Zimmerman look on. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The Laguna Blanca girls volleyball team loves playing in long rallies.

The Owls were involved in several Thursday night in a CIF-Southern Section Division 6 second-round playoff match against a scrappy Whittier-Pioneer team and won most of them in a 25-17, 25-18, 25-21 sweep at Merovick Gym.

Top-seeded Laguna Blanca (22-1) advances to a quarterfinal match on Saturday at Hemet. Pioneer ends the season at 14-14.

In the first set, Laguna Blanca and Pioneer engaged in a rally that lasted almost two minutes. Julia Fay ended it with a kill down the line for a 15-10 Owls’ lead. Maddy Nicolson followed with an ace, Caylin Zimmerman put a ball away and Pioneer was called for a double hit, stretching the advantage to 18-10.

“We had the longest rally of the year tonight,” Laguna coach Jason Donnelly said.  “We are taking swings and making digs and scrambling, and for us to get that win, that’s what we love. We were a little gassed for the first time.”

Julia Fay of Laguna Blanca rejects a spike by Pioneer’s Angelina Teel. Click to view larger
Julia Fay of Laguna Blanca rejects a spike by Pioneer’s Angelina Teel. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Fay and freshman Natalie McCaffery provided the Owls with a big lift in the absence of middle Laurel Kujan, who was out sick. Fay had five kills and ripped six service aces, five of them coming in the third set to give Laguna an 11-4 lead. McCaffery produced seven kills in her CIF playoff debut.

“Julia stepped into Laurel’s spot and Natalie moved into Julia’s spot and they did all we could have asked them to do,” said Donnelly.

He was impressed how McCaffery stepped up under the pressure of the playoffs.

“She’s just gotten better every day. For a freshman on this team who doesn’t see a lot of court time to step in and start in a CIF playoff match, we didn’t miss a beat. She figured some things out and she got seven kills for us, and those are huge points coming out of the middle spot from a ninth grader.”

Maddy Nicolson and  Zimmerman, starters on last year’s CIF Division 4AA championship team, posted double-doubles for the Owls. Nicolson hammered 15 kills and scooped 23 digs, while Zimmerman put away 13 kills and picked up 20 digs.

Libero Sophia Fay played sparkling defense, picking up 36 digs. She also was a stalwart passing the ball.

"We can't ask much more from her," said Donnelly.

Middle Valeria Jimenez and outside Kateylnn Coronell were a force at the net for Pioneer.

Donnelly said he didn’t know much about Pioneer, which was coached by Paul Burdine, the father of former UCSB men’s player Kawika Burdine and USC women’s All-American Keao Burdine.

“With the new divisions, there’s just a lot of unknown,” he said. “Normally, in a second-round match I’d go in with a full scouting report. I knew hardly anything about this team. Our kids did a good job of kind of just dealing with it. We were focused more on our side of the net, but they were digging balls and forcing us to play. We had to work for every point. That’s exactly what we need at this time of the year and heading into the quarterfinals on Saturday on the road. That’s a big lesson for us to get over the hump.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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