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St. Margaret's back to finish the job
Last season, the St. Margaret's girls volleyball team needed one more victory in the finals match to clinch the sixth CIF-SS title for the program.
It never happened.
The Tartans dropped the fourth and fifth sets to Academy League rival Sage Hill in the Division 4AA final, giving the Lightning its second CIF title.
On Saturday, the two teams will meet again, this time in the 3A final, at Cypress College at 7:30 p.m.
Sage Hill also defeated St. Margaret's in the 4A final in 2005.
"Coming into the season, I didn't have a ton of expectations," St. Margaret's coach Susie Maga said. "We had lost two all-CIF players (Emily Moore and Ali Robinson), and I wasn't sure how the team would handle the season.
"We started out rusty. We didn't play great in the preseason."
The Tartans won the Bronze Division of the Dave Mohs Division 2 championships and immediately after that put together an impressive string: a four-set victory over Saddleback Valley Christian, a sweep of Whitney of Cerritos and a five-set victory over Sage Hill.
Since then the Tartans have won 12 consecutive matches, all by sweep.
Included in this streak is the second victory over Sage Hill.
"The team starting appreciating each other more and bonded as a team more so than in years past," Maga said. "They started to trust each other."
Leading the way has been senior outside hitter Gigi Morally. Morally, who is headed to New York University, is a four-year starter on the varsity team for the Tartans.
"She's become our go-to-girl," Maga said of Morally. "If we need a kill, we can get it from her. She's put us on her shoulders."
Morally tallied 22 kills in the semifinal victory over Aquinas.
Another key has been the play of setter Ashley Torok. Torok stepped in to replace the graduated Moore.
"We've been able to run a quicker offense with her," Maga said. "We didn't know if we could do that, but she's been setting really well."
The Lightning is the third seed in the division. The team participated in the Division 1 tournament of the Dave Mohs championships earlier this year. One of its best victories was a two-set sweep of Capistrano Valley, one of the 1A semifinalists.