Climb to the top

Finishing the year on a 20-game winning streak, the girls’ varsity volleyball team capped off their season in San Jose on Dec. 1, winning the CIF Division III state championship. The team’s  59-minute sweep of Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco in the state finals was not unusual for the squad this year.

The Wolverines, who finished with a 30-4 record, dominated the postseason, sweeping six of their eight playoff matches. But despite all of the team’s success in important matches, nothing could have prepared them for the intense feeling of winning a state championship.

“I can’t believe this just happened,” outside hitter KC Kanoff ’08 said of the championship victory. “I am still on a high from the win.  It all seemed so surreal and unbelievable.”

 “It was honestly a rush of emotions. I was ecstatic but also on the verge of tears,” middle blocker Cathryn Quinn ’08 said. “It was an incredible way to end a perfect season.”

Although the team was emotionally overwhelmed after winning the state title, physically, the team had been fully prepared for the match. All of the training and drills that first year Head Coach Adam Black ran in practice had paid off. Switching over to Black’s style of coaching after playing for former head coach Jesse Quiroz for three years was difficult at first, Kanoff said.

“By the end of the season, we [were] all absolutely in love with coach Black and really realize everything he did in practice really paid off,” she said.

The road to a state title was a long one, with vigorous training beginning at 7 a.m. every day, starting in August. The team played 34 matches in less than three months, which often translated into three or four matches a week.  Many of these matches required hours of bus rides to tournaments.

In the span of one week in September, the squad dropped three of its four losses all season. It seemed as if the intense schedule had fatigued the team, and something would have to change.

“I think everyone was really tired,” opposite hitter Christine Waters ’08 said. “Mentally we were telling ourselves, ‘We have to play well,’ but physically it was so difficult because we were exhausted from the whole week.”

After the Wolverines lost their fourth match of the year in the finals of the Archbishop Mitty Tournament on Sept. 29, they turned things around.  The squad didn’t lose another match that season.  Ten games into the winning streak, the cool and collected Black was unable to figure out what clicked for the team.

“I don’t know what has happened since then,” he said.  “We didn’t change our approach much. I think the girls are just playing hard, practicing hard and training hard. We’re able to apply that into game situations.”

When the playoffs rolled around, the squad was ready. They swept Los Osos and Arroyo efficiently, setting up a rematch with Marymount in the CIF semifinals. The Wolverines won in three straight games, avenging last year’s season-ending loss to the Sailors in the CIF semi-finals. The team then defeated Flintridge Sacred Heart for the third time this season in the Southern Section Div. I-A finals for the CIF title.

“[Winning a CIF title] feels amazing,” outside hitter Emily Waterhouse ’09 said. “It was going to be hard to beat the same team three times in a row, but we pulled it off.” The squad then took care of La Jolla, Bishop Montgomery and Laguna Beach in the state playoffs. All three matches were played in Taper Gym before raucous crowds of Fanatics.

After the victory over Laguna Beach in the Southern California regional finals, Black said, “It feels pretty good. What feels really good though is seeing how the girls have come along since August. Seeing how they’ve developed as players and seeing how they have matured as people has been pretty awesome.”

The victory over Laguna Beach sent the team to San Jose to play for the state championship.

The team came home from the Bay Area awarded with medals and leis, rings and trophies and the coveted state championship banner on the wall in Taper.