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Girls' Volleyball: Sage Hill back in CIF final

Lightning sweep La Sierra in Riverside to advance to third straight CIF Southern Section title match.

November 19, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Dave Siegmund )

RIVERSIDE — Sage Hill School's Halland McKenna remembered last year's volleyball match at Riverside La Sierra. She called it scary.

Back then, the girls went the distance in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3A playoffs. Sage Hill rallied from a four-point deficit in the fifth set and survived.

McKenna and the Lightning returned to the same gym on Tuesday night to play another postseason match. They began the semifinals shaky. McKenna's play calmed Sage Hill down and she made sure the Lightning didn't have to stick around La Sierra too long.

Top-seeded Sage Hill is headed to a third straight section finals appearance after it swept La Sierra, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22.

McKenna finished with 11 kills, six service aces and seven digs. Coach Dan Thomassen said his junior outside hitter turned in her best performance of the postseason. In all facets, passing, serving and hitting, McKenna delivered for the Lightning.

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There's one more thing she plans to bring to Sage Hill. The section championship is on Friday or Saturday at Cerritos College and against a familiar opponent. The Lightning (25-5) face second-seeded Crean Lutheran (21-6), the school Sage Hill split the Academy League title with this season.

"It's always been the battle with St. Margaret's [in league]. They've always been the ones we want to face, but this year is definitely different," McKenna said. "Going to [Crean Lutheran's] house [on Oct. 29] and letting the [match for our school's first outright league title] slip away [in five sets] is such a motivation for this CIF [match]. We are not leaving that [Cerritos College] gym without a title. There's no sharing."

Every year Sage Hill has shared the Academy League title, it has gone on to claim the section crown.

In the section finale, Sage Hill has topped the team it shared the league championship with during the regular season. The Lightning pulled it off in 2005 and 2011, both times against rival St. Margaret's.

This year's title match is one McKenna is looking forward to after she severely sprained her left ankle during warm-ups of last year's finale. She played through, even though her ankle continued to swell, making her feel like she was anchored to the court.

The Lightning still took St. Margaret's to five sets, before falling. All offseason, McKenna put in the necessary work to get healthy and help Sage Hill return to the section championship for an unprecedented third year in a row.

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