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Girls' Volleyball: Sage Hill falls in SoCal final

Lightning battle back, but suffer season-ending loss at top-seeded Central Valley Christian.

December 04, 2013|By Matt Szabo
(Dave Siegmund )

VISALIA — Sage Hill School athletes wear jackets that are black, with the word "Courage" on the right sleeve.

Members of the Lightning girls' volleyball team lived up to that ideal time and again Tuesday night in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III championship match.

After making the long drive to play at top-seeded Visalia Central Valley Christian, the No. 3-seeded Lightning discovered a team that was much bigger and had a packed gymnasium with raucous fans. In every set Sage fell behind, yet it managed to come back, yes, courageously.

And while the host Cavaliers claimed a 25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 victory to end Sage's season, it was the Lightning who were able to make the 225-mile drive back home with tears in their eyes, but with their collective head held high after advancing to the regional championship match for the first time in program history.

"Their size and their height presented a problem," said Sage Coach Dan Thomassen, speaking of CVC's trio of middle blockers Lindsey Calvin (6-foot-1), Hailey Hilvers (6-1) and Taylor Van Den Berg (6-0), who combined for 34 kills. "They made some big plays, some big digs when it mattered, and they passed well too. They're a very skilled, very experienced team.

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"We were right there in Game 1, and I thought the girls did a great job of putting it out of their minds and moving on to the next game. We came back in Game 2 and had a chance there too. Eventually, if you get behind enough times it's going to come back to bite you. [But] we didn't get behind because we weren't playing well, it was because they were a great team and they made some great plays blocking and placing their shots."

Sage Hill (28-6), the CIF Southern Section Division 3A champion, fell behind 15-8 in the first set, but battled all the way back to 23-23 before Hilvers, a sophomore, hit back-to-back kills to end it. The Lightning also fell into a 7-2 hole in the second set, but this time they were unable to come all the way back.

The Lightning fought back to win the third set, and were again down 7-2 in the fourth set before rallying behind some tough serving from junior Halland McKenna.

McKenna, who finished with a match-high 21 kills, four service aces and 21 digs, caught fire. She served five straight points, including two aces, as Sage grabbed a 17-16 lead. But Central Valley Christian (37-4) rallied to take a 21-18 lead, prompting a Lightning timeout.

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