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Sage Hill sweeps to CIF crown

Lightning captures CIF Southern Section Division 3A title with fifth straight sweep in playoffs, the final against Crean Lutheran.

November 23, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Sage Hill School's Sophie Gordon, right, Juliette Singarella, center, and Halland McKenna, left, react after the Lighting swept Crean Lutheran in the CIF Southern Section Division 3A championship match at Cerritos College on Saturday.
Sage Hill School's Sophie Gordon, right, Juliette… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

NORWALK — The Sage Hill School girls' volleyball program has found its secret recipe for winning CIF Southern Section titles. Share the Academy League crown during the regular season and then beat the team you split it with in the section finale.

For the third time in Sage Hill's 14-year-old history, it has claimed a section championship.

Crean Lutheran spoiled Sage Hill's attempt at finishing perfect in league last month, but no one would deny the Lighting a perfect ending in the Division 3A playoffs.

Sage Hill's unprecedented third straight section finals appearance concluded with it on top, as the top-seeded Lightning prevailed against No. 2 Crean Lutheran, 25-18, 25-21, 25-17, at Cerritos College on Saturday night.

Beating Crean Lutheran was the ideal way for the Lightning (26-5) to close things out.

"That wasn't the plan," Sage Hill Coach Dan Thomassen said with a laugh when asked if sharing the league title was a good thing. "That [loss in five sets at Crean Lutheran on Oct. 29] stung a lot for our girls. We did some real bonding after that, and I think it made us grow as a team.

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"Definitely [our only five-set setback of the year motivated us], knowing that we didn't give our best match at [Crean Lutheran]. That was our whole goal [going into Saturday], win or lose, we wanted to play our best, not perfect, but just our best. Our girls were mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually absolutely dialed in and it showed."

Thomassen led Sage Hill back to the Division 3A finale and the school won it in style, capping it with its fifth sweep in the playoffs. Sage Hill swept every postseason opponent for the first time, quite a feat after it lost to St. Margaret's in five sets in last year's finale.

But a year ago, heading into the championship, Sage Hill didn't split the league title and one of its top hitters, Halland McKenna, severely injured her ankle during warm-ups. She looked more than ready against Crean Lutheran (21-7).

The last time McKenna faced the Saints, Thomassen said his outside hitter didn't have one of her best matches.

The junior made up for it in the rematch. McKenna recorded 14 kills, 10 digs and two service aces. She energized the Lightning, producing five kills in the opening set that featured big blocks by middle blockers Sophia Mossman and Juliette Singarella, and outside hitter Giordana Ricci.

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