Girls’ Volleyball Team Wins Section Championship!

St. Monica Academy Volleyball Section Champions

St. Monica Academy Volleyball Section Champions

St. Monica Academy Volleyball Section Champions

In a colossal comeback, the St. Monica Academy girls’ volleyball team gave St. Monica’s its first-ever CIF Southern Section championship by defeating top-seeded Irvine Tarbut V’Torah, 16-25, 21-25, 25-13, 25-17, 15-11 in the Division V-A title match on Saturday, November 18.

St. Monica’s was the 3rd seed and garnered its first title the hard way. Four of its five sectional matches were on the road. Their playoff journey began in the Inland Empire, and continued out to the Mojave Desert where they knocked off the number five seed University Prep. The Crusaders then traveled 26 miles across the sea to Catalina Island where they ousted the number two seed Avalon in straight sets in the semi-final.

This was a redemptive year for St. Monica Academy as it was their second trip to the final in four years. Three seniors on this year’s team were freshmen when they lost a five set match to Orangewood Academy in 2012. Senior setter and outside hitter Therese Boles summed up the achievement, “It feels incredible to have worked so hard and have it pay off with this.”

The journey however did not end with the title. Only three days later in the first round of the state tournament, the Crusaders faced off against the LA City Section Champions, Verdugo Hills. Despite having only 85 students compared to Verdugo Hills’ 1500, the Crusaders prevailed in another five set drama. However, the incredible run of six consecutive playoff wins came to an end in the State Quarterfinals. Upland Christian Academy, the number one seed in the Div. 5 Southern Region (and eventual state finalist), won in 3 tightly-fought sets. This was St. Monica’s only 3-0 loss all season.

Though a loss ended the season, it was another banner year for the team. They won their 7th consecutive league championship and kept alive a league match win streak that currently stands at 56 games. Their overall record was 26-5-2. A “dream season” said Coach Bradley. “Many schools are happy just to make it to the playoffs, let alone win a section title and advance to the final 8 in the state.”



A video of the post-season highlights is at www.stmonicaacademy.com/videos/.
Photos of the season are at www.stmonicaacademy.com/photos/.

 






Below is an article from the LA Archdiocese’s newspaper The Tidings about the spirit and fight that the Crusaders’ showed during their season-ending loss.

St. Monica Academy’s volleyball season ends in playoff loss to Upland Christian Academy
December 3, 2015 – Michael Wahle

At the end of the Division 5 state playoff match between the St. Monica Academy Crusaders and Upland Christian Academy Lady Eagles on Nov. 28, the St. Monica players remained so upbeat after dropping their third game of the match that I thought to myself, “Wait … is it actually best of seven? Not best of five? Is the match not over?”

Shortly thereafter, when I saw the Crusaders thank their supporters in the crowd — who had made the trek from Pasadena to Rancho Cucamonga High School for the final game — I realized that the match indeed was over, and that St. Monica’s Cinderella season, which had shattered preseason expectations and earned them their first-ever CIF-SS title, had finally come to an end. But the postgame mood on the St. Monica sideline wasn’t bittersweet, but rather happy.

And no one was happier for them, or prouder of them, than St. Monica head coach Darren Bradley. “[After the match] I said, ‘Look it — we won a section title. Whatever else happens, you gotta go home and be proud of that,’” says Bradley. “And we made the quarterfinals of state. At the beginning of the year, we definitely weren’t thinking section final. There’s really nothing to get sad about.”

Though both Bradley and his players were well aware that they had their work cut out for them in facing Upland Christian, the tournament’s number one overall seed, the Crusaders appeared to be up for the challenge, trading points with the Lady Eagles in the early stages of Game One. It didn’t take long, however, before Upland Christian’s height and athletic advantages began to shine through, as the Lady Eagles amped up their play en route to a 25-16 win.

“They were the better, more consistent hitting team,” says Bradley about Upland Christian. “They just had more power, and they were a little more athletic than us. They could get up above our blocking, and that hurt us on defense as well.”

Despite Upland Christian’s Game One dominance, St. Monica appeared totally undaunted as it took the floor for Game Two. Thanks to some powerful hitting from seniors Therese Boles, Michelle Hall and Francesca McCall, as well as some outstanding play around the net from senior Rose Goodwin and juniors Sophia Vega and Molly Hagan, St. Monica established a 15-8 lead and appeared to be in complete control.

This time, it was the Lady Eagles’ turn to calm down. And they did so in a big way, engineering a torrid 10-3 rally to tie Game Two at 18 apiece and, in the tension-wrought finale, pulling ahead for the 25-22 Game Two victory.

“We played about as well as we could have, but some of our weaknesses showed through defensively,” recalls Bradley of the turning point in the second game.

To the credit of the St. Monica players, their effort never diminished in Game Three, and the raucous Crusader faithful never stopped rooting them on. But everyone in the building seemed to sense that, after relinquishing the lead in Game Two, St. Monica didn’t have anything left in the tank.

A three-point rally fueled by a few stellar diving digs from sophomore Yamila Evans midway through Game Three made the score 15-10, but things never got closer than that, as Upland Christian forged ahead and sealed the sweep with a 25-16 Game Three win.

Despite being swept, the St. Monica players never stopped supporting one another, a trait Bradley says he noticed in his squad from the first practice.

“Their chemistry was really good. They’re a happy bunch,” claims Bradley. “When things are tough, everyone comes together instead of getting on each other. Their work ethic and their chemistry really made this team stand out.”

“I love my teammates,” adds Boles. “I’m really going to miss being with them, the car rides, the stops at In-N’-Out. The camaraderie we had; I’m really going to miss that.”

A freshman along with Hall and Goodwin on the 2012 team that lost in the CIF-SS finals, Boles couldn’t help but smile as she reflected on how she, her teammates, and the young program — which is only in its seventh season — blossomed during her four years.

“Obviously we got better,” she said with a laugh. “But when you’re a freshman, it’s easy to follow the leaders. This year, we [seniors] were the leaders, and I think my teammates really stepped up and became leaders as well. We really work as a team. I think that’s where we’ve grown the most: we all contribute, and don’t rely on anyone else to lead the way.”

And according to Boles, the sense of unity within the team mirrored the unity between the St. Monica players and their school. “We had a lot of spirit and a lot of fight,” says Boles. “Our school was super supportive of us. And we love our school. The unity between us and the fans helped us get this far.”

Go here to see the original Tidings article.

Go here to see the LA Times’ Glendale News-Press article about the dramatic victory that gave SMA its first Section Title.