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Reclaiming their honor: Vars girls’ volleyball takes back title from Mustangs

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Junior outside hitter Eunice Go (left), sophomore middle-blocker Mariko Tanaka (middle) and junior right-side hitter Annamarie Kelly blocks the ball during the championship game against the Lincoln Mustangs on Nov. 9. Photo by Ester Posillico

During this year’s annual AAA Championship on Nov. 9 at Kezar, the varsity girls’ volleyball team was able to take back the crown of champions from the Lincoln Mustangs, last year’s champions, with a 3–2 win.

The Cardinals did not have an encouraging start. They fell behind the Mustangs by more than 5 points during the first half of the set and failed to come back in the second half, ending the set with a 25–13 loss. “The first set was obviously very difficult because we always want to start off strong and show everyone that we deserve to be here and to fight for the Championship,” senior team captain Elise Ng said. “So when that wasn’t happening, it was very discouraging.”

Junior setter Sinead Beaupain (left) sets the ball for Tanaka (right) to spike. Photo by Esther Posillico

With a sense of urgency after they lost the first set, the Cardinals immediately reestablished their morale once the second set began. The Cardinals were able to quickly tie with the Mustangs and eventually surpassed them by eight points. Throughout this set, senior team captain and outside hitter Jane Seslar demonstrated her strength with a series of hard-driven spikes. Every attack of her tore down the Mustangs’ defense zone and helped bring the Cardinals back to the lead. At the end of this set, the Cardinals welcomed their first win with 25–16.

The third set was just as thrilling. Both teams had persistent rallies and played strong defense. Near the end of the set, the Cardinals had a break after senior right-side hitter Eunice Go attacked an unexpected cross-court shot. That was not enough for the Cards to win the set, as the Mustangs then furiously chased back. Unfortunately, the Cardinals lost the set 28–26. The Mustangs were now leading 2–1.

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The fourth set decided the fate of the Cardinals; the Mustangs were only one set away from winning now. Eager to win, the Mustangs began the set with a fast pace and intense attacks. The Cardinals, despite the pressure, only grew stronger and were able to turn the set around. In the last quarter of the set, Seslar, who had been credited consistently throughout the championship, fired off a series of deadly cut shots. The set reached its climax when both sides were one point away from winning. The tension froze the court. With all eyes on them, the Mustangs failed its serve. The Cardinal fans were thrilled. Parents and friends of the players were coming near tears. As cheers of “Lowell! Lowell!” filled the stadium, the Cardinals ended the fourth set with a 27–25 win.

The Cardinals were ready for a fast win in the fifth set. “Since the 5th set was really short [in which] it had only 15 points,” Ng said. “Our goal was to start off strong which basically set the mood for the whole set.” The Cardinals did exactly that. Their fatal attacks led them to grip onto every point. With momentum on their side, the Cardinals emerged victorious, 15–7.

Senior outside hitter Jane Seslar prepares for an attack. Photo by Esther Posillico

Through the team’s hard work, they were confident they could pull off a victory. “Our team [was] not surprised,” said Seslar. “We worked really hard all season for it and really wanted it.”

The Cardinals beat the University Red Devils on Nov. 15 and made it into the first round of the 2017 CIF State Girls Volleyball Championships Division II tournament. Then the Cardinals made history by qualifying for the second round of the tournament. Unfortunately, they were defeated by the Carlmont Scots.

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Reclaiming their honor: Vars girls’ volleyball takes back title from Mustangs