With their league seasons completed, the Bishop Diego and San Marcos girls volleyball teams got in one more match before entering the CIF-SS playoffs.
Bishop Diego, winner of the Tri-Valley League, played like it’s ready to repeat as CIF champion on Thursday night as it took down the Channel League runner-up Royals in five sets at the Thunderhut. The scores were 25-19, 9-25, 25-16 15-25, 15-10.
“Absolutely amazing,” said Bishop sophomore Eliana Urzua of the upset. “Honestly, when we came in, we were a little iffy, obviously. But we definitely came to win tonight. I’m very proud of us.”
Eliana Urzua, who played all over the court, paced Bishop with 20 kills, 10 assists, 11 digs and one service ace.
“Insane,” said her sister, senior Siena Urzua, of beating the Royals. “It feels so good. We’ve been working hard all season and it just feels great to come in and beat them in their house. This was a great game to get ready for CIF. It’s really good to build on. I feel like we’re on our way up.”
The Cardinals did it with tough serving, steady passing and executing the adjustments that coach Dillan Bennett made throughout the match.
“It took us a while but it was nice to make some adjustments, and I credit Mike Maas and Ed Gover, our coaching staff, for talking the kids through it,” said Bennett. “Emma (Coglizer, the libero) made some good moves, Eliana made some good moves, we picked up a couple of tips and our middles actually came to play and blocked some balls tonight, which was a pleasant surprise.”
Coglizer picked up 16 digs and didn’t commit an error on service receiving.
In the critical third set, middle Avi Gordon blocked for a point to give the Cardinals a 10-8 lead. They never trailed again in the set.
San Marcos got to 12-11 on a kill by Riley Green, but Siena Urzua followed with a stuff block and Coglizer served consecutive aces for a 15-11 advantage.
The Royals cut the deficit to 16-15, but they gave Bishop a point for a wrong server and then committed a hitting error. Siena Urzua served an ace for a 19-15 lead.
A kill and a tough serve from Vivi Klentner and a pair of dumps by Eliana Urzua sparked a 6-1 run to end the set and give the Cardinals a 2-1 edge.
“Vivi Klentner served two aces and put (San Marcos) in trouble a half-dozen times with her deep float serve,” said Bennett.
“(Bishop) played better than we did tonight, that’s probably the biggest message for us,” said San Marcos coach Dwayne Hauschild. “They executed their offense and they made the adjustments that they needed to make. They made very few service errors. We served pretty well. We had targets, but very few people cracked.”
Josie Gamberdella helped the Royals get out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth set with a pair of aces. Bishop battled back and got as close as 11-9 before San Marcos went on a four-point run, capitalizing on a pair of hitting errors and getting a tip from Elena Thomas and an ace from Brooke Hoadley.
The Royals stretch their lead to 10 and took the win to force a deciding fifth set.
In the fifth set, Eliana Urzua turned on a ball for a side out to tie the score at 6-6. A tough serve from Abby Garcia created an overpass that Siena Urzua put away for the go-ahead point.
On the next play, Eliana Urzua dug a ball and Siena finished with a kill for an 8-6 lead.
Hoadley blocked a ball for San Marcos to make it 8-7, but the Cardinals sided out on a back-row kill from Eliana Urzua, starting a three-point run. Siena Uruza served an ace and Eliana Urzua crushed a kill after the Royals couldn’t convert on a middle attack.
Bishop pulled away as San Marcos struggled to pass Cardinal serves.
“We served pretty tough and I credit that for them not getting in a passing rhythm,” said Bennett. “And they are most dangerous when they can give Josie a good pass and set Eloise (McGibben) in the middle to put it away. The passing wasn’t there and Eloise wasn’t on the court, so I think it was kind of a perfect storm for us.”
Hauschild said he was puzzled why the Royals’ passing broke down.
“Maybe it’s senior night, or we’re not focused on the game, or whatever. I don’t know,” he said. “In the bigger picture, Bishop obviously played better and they won. They just didn’t make errors.
“When you’re passing breaks down and your free-balling over (the net), when you’re giving easy balls to the other side and giving them options, you can’t beat many teams at that level if that’s your offense.”
Thomas led San Marcos with 14 kills and Green had 10. Libero Lily Blankenhorn was the team’s dig leader with 18 and Green picked up 16.
San Marcos is playing in the Division 3 playoffs while Bishop competes in Division 5, moving up after winning the Division 7 title last year.
The playoff pairings will be released on Saturday.
“I’m so thankful we showed up to compete because this could have gone south pretty quick,” said Bennett, referring to the team’s comeback after the second-set blowout. “There’s no better way to go into the playoffs than having this win push you through however many rounds you want to go this year.”