San Marcos appeared to be in good shape in Wednesday’s CIF-SS Division 3 girls volleyball quarterfinal against undefeated Pasadena Poly.
The Royals stormed back from a 15-8 deficit to win the first set and were at set point (24-20) in the second. But an over-ruling of a line call by the head referee took away a set victory and Pasadena Poly capitalized and went on to win the set and take the match in four sets, 23-25, 30-28, 26-24, 25-17 at the Thunderhut.
Taylor Wilson of the Royals hit a ball to the back line and linesman Jon Roberts signaled it was in bounds. The San Marcos players started celebrating and heading over to the other side of the court for the third set.
But referee Ron King over-ruled the call from the ladder and the game continued.
With new life, the Panthers proceeded to score three more points to tie the score at 24.
San Marcos created three more set-point opportunities, but a shanked dig, a net violation and a serving error spoiled its chances to secure the win.
Maggie Jameson served an ace to put Poly ahead 29-28 and Zoey Mao put away a kill for the 30-28 victory to even the match at 1-1.
San Marcos co-coach Tina Brown questioned how the referee could change the line call when he had “professional lines people here,” she said.
“He overrides it,” Brown continued. “Mind you, we are only at 24-21, so we should have been able to get a side out. But it does take the wind out of your sails when literally you’re switching sides.”
The Royals regrouped in the third set and kept the score close.
Brynn Sofro, who played brilliantly in her final match as a Royal with a team-high 19 kills and four blocks, scored four consecutive points during a seven-point serving run by fellow senior Grace Matthews. That gave the Royals a 21-20 lead.
“She was unreal tonight. It was probably the best match she’s ever played,” said Brown of Sofro.
But Poly came right back as outside hitter Katie Salembier hit high over the block and Ella Mao came up a big dig which the Panthers transitioned into a kill by Kayla Chu for a 22-21 advantage.
Sofro sided out and Bella Johnson ripped one off the block to put the Royals back on top.
A San Marcos serving error out of a timeout and a block by Zoey Mao and Salembier gave Poly a 24-23 lead.
Taylor Wilson sided out to tie the score again, but Ella Mao answered for the Panthers and Zoey Mao combined with Laila Ward for a stuff block to give Poly the win and a 2-1 advantage.
The Panthers, who rallied to beat No. 2 seed La Salle in the second round, did a good job of getting block touches and digs on Wilson’s attacks.
The dynamic outside hitter still finished with 18 kills.
“We probably weren’t as effective with other attacks, so they were able to just send two blockers out to her a lot,” said Brown of Poly’s ability to slow Wilson.
“That was a big thing coming in here, knowing that (Wilson) was their big hitter,” Poly coach Katrina Damasco-Dicipulo said. “We tried to make sure we covered her, but they still went to her every single time and we still struggled with her. She’s a great hitter.”
The coach said her team’s comeback from blowing a first-set lead and rallying in the second set was a testament to its mental strength.
“That’s a goal of ours. Whether we’re up or down, we make it a point to not let up and to stay in the game. That’s something we’ve emphasized all season.”
The Royals knew they’d be in for a tough battle against Poly, which is now 22-0.
“We knew they were very scrappy and we knew they had that one very legit outside hitter,” said Brown, referring to Ella Mao. “They were in the finals of CIF in Division 4 last year, so we knew they were a good, solid team that could compete.
“They’re a team that doesn’t give up and is very disciplined,” she added. “I think it was actually one of the toughest serving teams we’ve faced all year. I think they missed three or four serves the entire match.”
Poly started to wear the Royals down in the fourth set as it got contributions from Salembier and Emily Wen on the outside, Ward in the middle and stellar defense from libero Debbie Hong.
The Panthers opened up a 20-14 lead and never looked back.
Ella Mao had a double-double of 19 kills and 16 digs to lead the Panthers. Salembier had 12 kills, Zoey Mao added seven kills and 22 assists, Ward had seven blocks and Hong picked up 16 digs.
For San Marcos, Madison Oriskovich contributed eight kills, Bella Johnson added five and Matthews turned in another incredible effort with 45 digs.