The Mater Dei girls volleyball team celebrates after defeating Great Oak of Temecula in the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1-AA playoffs in Santa Ana Tuesday.

New look, same result as Mater Dei returns to final


Making it to the CIF-SS Division 1AA final has become a habit for the Mater Dei girls volleyball team.

For the third consecutive year, but with a new-look group, the Monarchs found their way back to the finals.

“The last two years kind of set the precedent for what it is to be a Mater Dei volleyball player,” Coach Dan O’Dell said. “I think the girls just have that confidence where we expect to go all the way every year. Whether or not we do or not, they just play with that confidence every single game.”

That aura carried over into Tuesday’s CIF-SS Division 1AA semifinal. The Monarchs defeated visiting and second-seeded Great Oak of Temecula, 21-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-21.

“The last couple of matches, when we needed a big point, we come up with a big point and that’s a testament to their confidence,” O’Dell said.

The Monarchs (24-7) will face Redondo Union in the final on Saturday at Cerritos College at 8 p.m. Redondo defeated Huntington Beach, 25-14, 25-18, 22-25, 25-16, in the other semifinal.

Mater Dei and Redondo met earlier this season with Redondo winning in three. They also met in last year’s final.

“It is a new group, but what sets them apart is this is the best passing group that we have,” O’Dell said of his players. “While the previous teams had the Frankie Shebby or the Alyse Ford-type players, none of those teams could pass the way this team passes, and I think our serve-receive is what separates us against a lot of teams.

“When we’re passing, we’re hard to stop because we have a lot of weapons.”

The balanced attack was on display against the Wolfpack. Shannon Scully led the way with 16 kills, and Rachel Ritchie had 13. Makena Martin and Siena Secrist had six and five, respectively.

Martin, one of just two returning starters for Mater Dei, said she has noticed the team’s improvement on the court since the start of the season.

“At first I was kind of hesitant,” she said about the team’s possibility of making it to the final at the beginning of the year. “Then, slowly, when we started getting used to each other and comfortable together, I slowly saw the progression. We’ve grown so much since the first day we got together, and I’m so proud of my team.”

The Monarchs jumped at the chance to close the match in four sets. They trailed throughout the early stages of the fourth game, but caught the Wolfpack at 15-15. Brielle Mullally gave the Monarchs the lead for good, 19-18, on an ace, and they were on their way to a third consecutive trip to the CIF finals.

“All around, we’ve gotten a lot better since the beginning of the season,” Martin said. “We have a really young team this year, so I was kind of scared in the beginning, but they definitely proved me wrong and we all just came together and it has been great.”

In Division 1A:

Trabuco Hills 3, Santiago of Corona 1: The Mustangs took down the second-seeded Sharks, 25-22, 20-25, 26-24, 25-23, to advance to Saturday’s final against Valencia of Valencia.

In Division 2AA:

Village Christian of Sun Valley 3, Laguna Beach 2: The Breakers were defeated by the top-seeded Crusaders, 25-18, 19-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-13.

In Division 3A:

Saddleback Valley Christian 3, Loma Linda Academy 2: The Warriors are headed back to the finals after a 25-19, 19-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-11 road victory. The Warriors have won consecutive CIF titles, 4AA in 2013 and in Division 3A last year.

In Division 5A:

Tarbut V’Torah 3, Hillcrest Christian of Thousand Oaks 1: The top-seeded Lions (25-1) are headed to the final thanks to a 25-11, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19 win at home over the Saints.

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