RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The La Cañada High girls’ volleyball team’s quest for a return trip to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs was quickly halted in a first round match with Los Osos on the road Tuesday evening.
The 25-17, 25-11, 25-14 loss to the Grizzlies of Rancho Cucamonga concluded the Spartans’ season— one in which they had a 69-match league winning streak snapped and did not capture the Rio Hondo League title for the first time in a decade.
Against the fourth-seeded Grizzlies (24-10), La Cañada (10-21) succumbed to a team ranked 34th in California in the latest MaxPreps rankings. The Baseline League runner-up used extended scoring runs in each of the three games to create separation and leave little in doubt.
“They were the better team,” said Spartans Coach Brock Turner, who guided a team with zero seniors to a 7-3 league record, tying for second with Monrovia. “We could have played better, though. I’m disappointed in our play, but good luck to them.”
Jenna Gray led the Spartans with 10 kills, with Taylor Page adding eight. Leigh Sclafani’s 14 assists and Loren Shin’s 13 digs led the team in each department.
The Los Osos offense proved to be too much, however, led by outside hitters Ashten Smith-Gooden and Alyssa Ybanez. The attack overwhelmed the Spartans, particularly at the net, where the Grizzlies used their size advantageously.
As Turner alluded to, the Spartans have played below the net all season and have relied on digs and good passing to make up for a low swing percentage. At The Cave in Los Osos High, La Cañada just didn’t play its best volleyball of the season.
“Come CIF, the opponents always get bigger,” Turner said. “We kept our competition at a high level all season. I was looking back at the schedule, and 16 of the 20-some-odd teams [we played] outside our league made the CIF playoffs.”
Los Osos’ six unanswered points early in the first game garnered a lead that would not be relinquished. Leading, 11-6, shortly after, a 5-0 run gave the Grizzlies a double-digit advantage. The Spartans answered with five of their own, capped off by a Melissa Horner ace. The lead would prove insurmountable, however, and the Spartans wouldn’t come closer than five points down the rest of the way.
The second game saw eight tie scores and five lead changes before the Grizzlies opened the floodgates with nine consecutive points that turned a tie score into a 16-8 lead. La Cañada couldn’t rebound thereafter and gave way to a two-game deficit.
It was another scoring run in the third game that created cushion for the host Grizzlies, this time six unanswered to take a 12-5 lead. The Spartans offense lacked the firepower to come back, but did show fight in scoring five straight points after Los Osos took a 24-9 lead for match point.
The Spartans finished the season having lost seven of eight matches in November, a majority of the losses coming in the Redondo Union Power Classic. La Cañada will look to get back on top of the Rio Hondo League next season with a returning core.
“This was a growing year,” Turner said. “We graduated 85% of our offense. I’m excited to bring the seniors back next season, but we still need to improve.”