The three Mission Trail Athletic League girls volleyball tri-champions were all in action Wednesday night in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division IV tournament. Santa Catalina was one of those three teams but its tournament run came to an end.
The Cougars were eliminated in the first round of the Division IV playoffs with a 28-26, 25-19, 25-22 loss to Mercy of San Francisco.
Santa Catalina entered the tournament with the best winning percentage among the 13 Division IV teams. But it fell to 20-4 for the season, as it was unable to figure out the Mercy attack in time.
Mercy isn’t done visiting Monterey County. The Skippers are back in the area Saturday night to take on Notre Dame in Salinas in the quarterfinals.
In each of the three sets, Mercy found a way to string together points and hold back Santa Catalina.
It was evident in the third set. At 12-12, Santa Catalina went on a 7-1 run powered by kills from Chase LeeHong and Katie Griffith to go up 19-13. Mercy crept back with consecutive points. Santa Catalina then got a kill from Jesse Donlon to go ahead 20-15.
And then the Skippers seemed to go into overdrive. Kijana Best got a cross-court kill that kickstarted a 8-0 run, giving Mercy a 23-20 lead in the third set. Marina Dalton had four service aces in the eight-point run, leaving Santa Catalina scrambling to control her serves.
The Skippers went from thinking about a possible fourth set to now in control of a possible sweep.
Santa Catalina got a point from a Mercy error and then a service ace by LeeHong to close to within 23-22.
But Best stopped Santa Catalina’s momentum again, firing in a kill to put the Skippers on match point.
Samantha Lui finished the contest with a kill.
“They’re a good serving team,” Santa Catalina coach Paul Elliott said of Mercy.
Even down two sets, Elliott believed his team had enough to rally back.
“We have a resilient group,” Elliott said. “But Mercy didn’t make as many errors, and we couldn’t stop No. 9 (Best). She lays wood on the ball.”
Santa Catalina had all of the momentum in the early part of the match. It went on a 6-0 run to take a 6-2 lead in the first set. The lead soon blew up to 13-5 thanks to kills from LeeHong and Griffith and service aces by Lizzy Tardieu and LeeHong.
Mercy crept back and, at 18-12, went on an 8-0 run to quiet the gymnasium and take a 20-18 lead. Best wasn’t the focus. Rather, it was Jacqueline Yee who leaped high to fire kills past double teams at the net.
She had three kills in the eight-point run.
Santa Catalina fought back, later using a four-point run to take a 23-21 lead. It was unable to get the finisher it needed, and the teams soon went into an extra session. A net violation ended the first set.
“We had the advantage in the middle, but they had the advantage at the pins,” Elliott said. “When the serve-receive breaks down, it’s hard to use the middle.
“It was a really entertaining match.”