Cardinals will host No. 3 Palisades on Saturday
The Santa Clarita Christian School student section began Thursday night with some rousing cheers for the Cardinals girls’ volleyball team.
At the end of the night, the two groups joined together to celebrate, bringing the loudest cheers of the night to the small gym at SCCS.
The No. 2 Cardinals (26-3) swept the visiting No. 10 Verdugo Hills Dons (35-7) at home on Thursday, 25-17, 25-17, 25-14, to advance to the regional semifinals in the CIF Division 4 state tournament.
“I feel like when people walk in here and they see the tiny gym, they sort of get a little offset and they’re like, ‘Oh, great,’” SCCS senior Hannah Shaffer said. “But we come in here, we’re like, ‘Oh, this is our home.’ And we love the loudness. We feed off of it, for sure. It definitely helps us so much. I love our fans so much. They’re the best.”
Shaffer had a team-high 10 kills, making just one error on her 30 attempted hits. SCCS senior Kaysa Brown pitched in with eight kills, giving those two a combined 18 of the 20 kills for the Cardinals.
“When she’s [Shaffer] got an open lane, hats off to the teams that are playing good defense against her and digging those things up,” SCCS head coach Darcy Brown said. “Between her and Kaysa with our weapons, they’re a dominant duo, for sure.”
Kaysa Brown added a team-high 10 assists, while junior Evie Frields helped out with nine assists. Brown also had 10 digs to give her a triple-double for the second straight match in the CIF playoffs.
SCCS senior Clara Ayer had a team-high 12 digs and four aces, including three in the first set. Fellow senior Bethany Wilson had a team-high five blocks.
The final score may indicate a sweep, but the Cardinals had anything but an easy road to victory. The Dons came out swinging, leading early in each of the three sets. But each time, the Cardinals found a way to bring it back to even before finishing each set off with a dominant run.
“They’re fighters,” coach Brown said. “Aggressive serving, smart, really keeping the ball in play, and I feel like if we can get up a couple of points, it gives them just a confidence. They fight. They don’t give up easy. That was one thing that people said about us last year, too.”
This is the second straight year that the Cardinals have advanced this far into the state tournament after they won the CIF Division 5 title last year. And with many of the same faces still on the team, Shaffer doesn’t see any reason for her and her teammates not to make another run at the state title, especially with where the team was placed as the second-seeded squad.
“I was definitely happy with the division that we were put in, and our ranking. It definitely gave me a lot of hope,” Shaffer said. “But honestly, this team is great. It’s almost the same team as last year. We’re missing a few key players, but I totally thought we could do it again.”
The Cardinals will back at their home gym on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the regional semifinals. There they will face the third-seeded Palisades Dolphins (33-10), who beat 11th-seeded Sante Fe with a sweep of their own on Thursday.
The Dolphins are a formidable opponent, based on both record and the sweep over Sante Fe, but Shaffer doesn’t think anything can stop the Cardinals the way they are playing right now.
“I think if we play like we did tonight … This was a fun game,” Shaffer said.