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Sage begins new run

Girls' Volleyball

CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA champs open state playoffs with a four-game victory over visiting Viewpoint.

November 22, 2011|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Don Leach / Daily…)

NEWPORT COAST — A week ago, the Sage Hill School girls' volleyball team believed it ended Viewpoint's season.

The Lightning traveled to Calabasas to face the top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs. Sage Hill beat Viewpoint in five sets and advanced to the section finals.

"It was a little different atmosphere," Sage Hill Coach Dan Thomassen said. "I felt like in the semis there [was] a real weight of pressure on our girls."

Sage Hill no longer feels the pressure, not after claiming the section crown against rival St. Margaret's on Saturday.

Three days later, Viewpoint appeared on Sage Hill's schedule again. This time, the Lightning finished the Patriots for good.

They made history doing so on Tuesday night at home.

Sage Hill defeated Viewpoint, 25-14, 27-29, 25-18, 25-8, in the opening round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division IV playoffs, marking the first time the program has won a state postseason match.

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"We haven't had a big home match in a long time and our girls were really excited to be able to play in front of our home fans," Thomassen said. "That was our volleyball, just not perfect, but a lot of energy and good serving and good defense down the stretch."

Fourth-seeded Sage Hill (27-5) will need to excel in all facets in the next round on Saturday. The Lightning travel to face top-seeded La Jolla Country Day (31-8), the defending state champion.

La Jolla Country Day is trying to three-peat. Sage Hill is happy to keep its dream season alive.

The Lightning continue after getting a balanced attack. Three players, middle blocker Zoe Kreitenberg (15 kills), outside hitter Natasha Sakraney (14), outside hitter Halland McKenna (12), finished with double-digit kills.

Sakraney finished with 12 digs, tying libero Claudia Noto for the team lead.

Sage Hill served well, with Maggie Danner leading the team with 10 services aces and McKenna and Maddy Abbott combined for a half dozen aces. The service winners by the Lightning started early and they closed out the match.

McKenna recorded a couple of aces late against the fifth-seeded Patriots (21-6), which at times looked lost on the court.

"They probably thought their season was over [last week]," said Thomassen, adding that the Patriots earned an at-large entry after the state moved Hemet into the Division III playoffs because Hemet was too big a school to be in Division IV. "Viewpoint didn't have [its] best match. We caught [the Patriots at their worst].

"We're riding a lot of momentum right now. We played a very good match. We did what we needed to do to win. I'm proud of our girls."

Thomassen has a lot to be pleased with in his eighth season at Sage Hill. He led the program to its third Academy League title and second section crown since 2005.

Back then, the Lightning defeated St. Margaret's for the first section title at the school. But Sage Hill's state playoff experience was short-lived.

A team from La Jolla, The Bishop's School, knocked out host Sage Hill in five sets.

The Lightning go up against another La Jolla-based school again in the state playoffs.

"We know we're going to face a great team," Thomassen said.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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