A season full of prosperity and accomplishments is now over for South Pasadena High’s girls’ volleyball team.
The hope of winning the CIF-Division III championship fell short Saturday afternoon as the Tigers dropped a 3-1 match to Lowell of San Francisco at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, but prosperity came through a bevy of accomplishments marked by many highs.
To get there, South Pasadena thrilled a packed house four days earlier by winning the CIF Southern Regional championship with a 3-1 win over Palm Desert while Lowell bested Sacred Heart Prep 3-2 to earn the northern crown, setting up the showdown in Orange County.
Unmatched in the Rio Hondo League, South Pasadena went through the season with a perfect 10-0 record only to be stopped by Norco 3-0 in the semifinals of CIF-Southern Section competition. Their fight and determination earned them an opportunity to be selected one of the teams to play for the CIF Division III state title and, not disappointing their invitees, the Tigers rolled to the finals where they met a powerful contingent from up north that only momentarily throttled the team’s spirit.
You see, this group of young ladies comes home to the tiny town of 26,000 with nothing but pride, smiling over what it has achieved, becoming the first team in the school’s 113-year history to play for a state championship in any sport. The team that finished with a 37-8 overall mark, showing tears at the end – maybe not so much for the disappointment in losing but because they will no longer compete together on the court again – will be showered with praise, admiration and respect in the weeks to come.
On December 10, their merits will be shared by the South Pasadena Board of Education, sure to give the players an ovation that is not heard everyday. And their efforts to reach for the state finals likely hasn’t gone unnoticed by the city’s mayor, Dr. Marina Khubesrian, who might want to sound the trumpet at an upcoming City Council meeting, signaling team’s memorable winning campaign.
As the Tigers’ coach, Ivy Chew, pointed out last week: “The team dynamic is great,” she said proudly, talking about a squad that never lost a home match this season, going 14-0, and finished with an overall .822 winning percentage against 45 opponents.
Tip your hat South Pasadena to the roster of 14 hardworking teens, all battling to the end, making themselves, the high school and community proud. The talented bunch includes: Lindsey Hirano, Sydney Abundo, Erin Hughes, Alyssa Sokolow, Lexi Schroeder, Mikaela Noonan, Ava Dorny, Lola Foord, Abbey Garner, Katherine Florence, Kennedy Taylor, Ashley Fox, Sofia Reyes, and Carrie Fleming.
Don’t despair long over the Tigers’ setback. Look for them to repeat as league champs next year, go deep into CIF-Southern Section play and reach for the stars again at the state competition level. Success will be on the side of South Pasadena in 2020 as the Tigers only lose two players – Noonan and Fox – to graduation next June.
Taking in South Pasadena High’s heroics this season was the school’s first-year athletic director Anthony Chan, saying after the Lowell match was over on Saturday, “At the start of this season, I was thinking, ‘It would be great to win league.’ I never expected to have the program break records and represent South Pasadena at a state level. These ladies have played as a team all season and have brought excitement into our community. Their grit and never-give up attitude amazed me.”
One example, the Tigers trailed 2-0 against Linfield Christian in the quarterfinals of the state championship only to turn around the match with three straight wins to claim victory. In another, South Pasadena showed resolve in its match against Lowell Saturday, falling behind 24-13 at one stretch of the fourth set before rebounding, pulling to within four, 24-20, before they dropped the set and match.
The Cardinals opened the match with a 25-21 first set victory, followed that up winning 25-21, but the Tigers extended it by coming out on top in the third 25-23, before Lowell, now 28-8 on the year, closed it out 25-20 in the fourth, holding off the oncoming Tigers and ending their season.
“I have never seen such fight and effort at a match point,” explained Chan, noting that after both teams had cleared the court following the match a South Pasadena player approached him saying, “I’m sorry we let you down Mr. Chan.”
The Tigers’ athletic director was in disbelief hearing the apology that was hardly needed. “I have never felt such pride for this amazing team, and I am looking forward to their growth as a team next year,” he insisted.
So is everyone else in South Pasadena, enjoying the success of the Tigers’ girls’ volleyball team that knows: “Winners never quit and quitters never win,” words made famous by legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.