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Girls' Volleyball: Sage breaks through

For the first time in school history, Lightning reach CIF State Southern California Regional finals.

November 30, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(KEVIN CHANG / Daily…)

Students in the first few rows held sticks with huge cutouts of the heads of the Sage Hill School girls' volleyball players. As if Sage Hill's opponent on Saturday had not seen enough of the Lightning.

For the second time in eight days, Crean Lutheran faced the Lightning, in the stands and on the court. The second meeting turned out much like last week's in the CIF Southern Section Division 3A finale.

Sage Hill finished the Saints in three sets, 25-17, 25-19, 25-22, in the second round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III playoffs in front of a raucous home crowd. The third-seeded Lightning advanced to the Southern California Regional finals for the first time.

Sage Hill (28-5), which began competing on varsity 12 years ago, made history by thumping the team it shared the Academy League title with during the regular season. Ever since Sage Hill dropped a five-set match at Crean Lutheran on Oct. 29, costing the program its first outright league crown, the Lightning have been on a mission.

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The next match for the Lightning is at top-seeded Visalia Central Valley Christian (36-4) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and the winner earns a trip to the CIF State finals. Sage Hill is traveling far, but the 225 miles to Central Valley Christian are worth it to Coach Dan Thomassen.

The Lightning have never won a team state title in any sport. The girls' volleyball team moved one step closer by easily eliminating seventh-seeded Crean Lutheran (22-8).

"The season that never ends," Sage Hill's Kekai Whitford said with a huge smile. "We came in knowing that it was going to be a battle. It's good [to see the Saints again] because we know a lot of what they're going to do, but I mean it does get kind of interesting when it's the fourth time we've played them on the season.

"We were completely motivated since Tuesday night, since our [five-set] win [at home against San Diego Cathedral Catholic in the opening round]. We knew that [the Saints] were going to come out because of the loss that they had [against us] in the [section] final."

Whitford killed any hope the Saints had in getting revenge. The junior outside hitter led the Lightning with 19 kills and she added nine digs.

Things began on the right note for the Lightning. Whitford turned it on early, recording five kills to put Sage Hill up, 6-2, in the opening set.

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