Eliana Urzua
Eliana Urzua reacts after delivering a kill for Bishop Diego as teammates Siena Urzua (14) and Emma Coglizer look on. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Bishop Diego girls volleyball is headed back to the CIF-Southern Section finals for the first time since 1983.

The second-seeded Cardinals used a steady, diversified attack and tough serving to sweep a scrappy St. Monica Catholic, 25-18, 25-20, 25-13, at the Brick House gym in a Division 7 semifinal match on Saturday afternoon.

The Urzua sisters, senior Alina, junior Siena and freshman Eliana, combined for 21 kills and 21 digs, and the Cardinals reeled off 12 service aces to sink a Mariners squad that played well defensively.

“It’s great to have a group of sisters that are really leading the charge,” Bishop coach Dillan Bennett said. “It’s great to have Sienna back, it’s great to have Alina playing well and Eliana is probably one of the best players in the division. Things are going well; our role players are stepping up.”

Bishop Diego (29-8) will face either top-seeded Capistrano Valley Christian or Hillcrest in the championship match next Friday or Saturday at the Brick House. Capistrano Valley Christian and Hillcrest are playing their semifinal on Monday.

The Cardinals last won a CIF title in 1979, the second of back-to-back championships.

Alina Urzua has been waiting for this moment since her second year in the program.

Claraa McDonald

Clara McDonald hits past the St. Monica block during Bishop Diego’s CIF-SS Division 7 semifinal sweep. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

“Sophomore year I told my coach, ‘I just want to make the finals,’” she said. “Through the last three years I just wanted to make the finals and now we’re going to the finals. I’m so excited. It’s literally like a dream. With both my sisters on the team, it’s so awesome.”

St. Monica’s tough defense kept the first two sets close. A 4-1 run allowed the Cardinals to get separation in the first set. Eliana Urzua’s tough serve resulted in a point, and middle Kylie Zimmerman followed with a tip to make it 19-15. 

Zimmerman was a force at the net with her tips and blocking. She had three solo blocks.

“Kylie up there with the block was so sick, that was awesome,” Alina Urzua raved.

After Shelby Reese sided out for the Mariners, Bishop setter Amy Mancinelli fed Alina Urzua for a kill to keep the four-point advantage.

Alina Urzua had another kill to end a long rally and Siena Urzua served an ace to make it 24-17. Alina Urzua finished the set with an off-speed shot into an open spot.

In the second set, the Cardinals went on a 6-0 run to rally from an 11-9 deficit. Mancinelli fed Zimmerman for a kill in the middle and Zimmerman tipped an overpass to key the run.

Mancinelli has been an important player in Bishop’s run. She took over the setting spot from Alina Urzua, who moved to outside hitter after Sienna Urzua got injured.

“It’s crazy because it’s my senior year,” Mancinelli said of running the show for a team that’s going to the CIF finals. “The team is amazing together. We have chemistry; I just love playing with them.”

Amy Mancinelli, Kylie Zimmerman

Amy Mancinelli (9) and middle Kylie Zimmerman combine on a block for Bishop Diego. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Coach Dillan Bennett said he “rolled the dice” with Mancinelli and she has delivered.

“She’s solid, she makes the right decisions and that’s most of what it takes to be a setter. Fortunately for her, she’s got three Urzuas on the floor now and a couple of other girls like Clara (McDonald) and Kylie that can get in there and hit the ball hard, too. So, she’s got a lot of options and she’s really good at making the right choice.”

St. Monica rallied and pulled to 17-16 before Eliana Urzua took over. She sided out with a kill from the back row, crushed two balls to the floor and hammered one off the block for a 24-20 lead. 

The set point came on a mistimed play in the middle by St. Monica.


The Bishop Diego girls volleyball team celebrates a sweep over St. Monica to advance to the CIF-SS Division 7 final. The Cardinals will host the match. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

“They had a really good defense, really scrappy,” Mancinelli said of the Mariners. “We had to play smart. We had to know where to tip it, we had to know where to play defense. They were really good competition.”

The third set was all Cardinals. They served six aces in the set, with libero Emma Coglizer reeling off four during a six-point run for a 13-2 lead. She finished with team-best five aces to go with nine digs. McDonald had three.

Eliana and Alina Urzua each collected eight kills to lead the attack, Sienna Urzua had five and Zimmerman added four.

Bennett was thrilled for the girls, who didn’t get an indoor season last year because of the pandemic.

“We had to play on the grass,” he said. “Anybody who has seen us play knows they love to play together. This is awesome. This is a school that historically has been very successful in volleyball. It just so happened to be 40 years ago. So it’s finally turned back around.”

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

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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

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