photo by Charlie McDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org)
by John Parker
IRVINE - When you've won six state championships, this kind of thing is old-hat.
Marymount of Los Angeles entered the CIF State Division I championship volleyball match against St. Francis with all the urgency of someone checking their mail. The Sailors, making their eighth state championship appearance sauntered in 35 minutes before the match's scheduled start, clad in mismatching sweats and an unquestioned attitude.
That stood in sharp contrast to the Troubadours, who were punctual, dressed the part and had a quiet, confident focus.
Swagger trumped stoicism on Saturday as Marymount won its seventh state championship with a 3-1 (25-11, 25-17, 23-25, 25-20) win over the Troubadours at Concordia University.
"I'm unbelievably proud of this group," St. Francis coach Alynn Wright said. "We knew we had our work cut out for us going in."
When St. Francis won in its lone other state title match appearance it did so by stunning then defending champion Rim of the World of Lake Arrowhead in the first set of the 2005 D-III title match and riding that momentum to a big upset. The circumstances were similar as the Troubadours again entered as an underdog against a team making a return trip to the state finals.
The Sailors, however, made sure there would be no surprise attack. They led 7-1 before St. Francis had a chance to take much of a breath and rolled to one of the largest D-I single-set margins of victory in CIF state championship history.
Though they never held a lead in the second set either, the Troubadours showed signs of a comeback and after getting out to a 2-0 lead in the third, finally had something to cheer about. With senior outside hitter and offensive focal point Gaby Palmeri relegated to the back row and Marymount threatening to take control after tying the set at 15, senior outside hitter Courtney Robledo scored three of St. Francis' next four points with the fourth coming on a Chloe Hakim ace to give the Troubadours a lead they would not surrender.
"We knew their tendencies and what they like to do going in," St. Francis junior setter Ali Koumelis said. "But it's hard to practice against it. Once we got into the match we started making adjustments."
While the Troubadours were surging, Marymount was stewing.
"I thought we should have killed them in three (sets)," Sailors coach Cari Klein said." We lost focus in the third set and got it back in the fourth."
St. Francis, which expended so much energy just to claim the third set, made one last gasp in the fourth, tying the set at 20 before Marymount, sensing the inevitable, closed the match on a 5-0 run.
Koumelis finished the night with a team-high 29 assists and 11 digs. Palmeri had a team-high 13 kills. Senior setter Hannah Lisera was honored with the CIF's sportsmanship award in a postgame ceremony.
"We're No. 2 in the state, so you can't really complain," Koumelis said. "This has been such a great experience."
Courtesy of John Parker (www.johnparkermultimedia.com)