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Final California girls volleyball rankings by SBLiveSports/Sports Illustrated

Mater Dei's nearly perfect ride to their second state title was almost derailed in the section semifinals by Huntington Beach
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If you've forgot or missed, the CIF State Championships put the exclamation point on the 2023 season Nov. 18-19 at Santiago Canyon College in Orange. 

Mater Dei-Santa Ana navigated an incredible road to capture the Open Division title, defeating Archbishop Mitty-San Jose 25-18, 23-25, 25-15, 25-21.

To illustrate the depth and parity, note that MD’s closest call on the single-elimination journey was against Huntington Beach, not Mira Costa-Manhattan Beach, Cathedral Catholic-San Diego or Mitty. 

The latter three were all tough opponents but the Oilers had the MD Monarchs up against the wall after taking two of the first three sets in a SoCal Regional semifinal before MD prevailed in five.

Here are capsules from the state finals.  

Isabel Clark with one of her 13 kills. 

Isabel Clark with one of her 13 kills. 

Open Division

Mater Dei defeated Mitty 25-18, 23-25, 25-15, 25-21.

Mater Dei’s powerful offense of Cymarrah Gordon (17 kills), Layli Ostovar (14 kills) and Isabel Clark (13 kills) drove the win. Mitty fought hard behind Makenna Crosson with 16 kills, middle Amiya Kuchibhotla with 11 kills and Katelyn Cook with 10 kills.

A crucial part of MD’s success was the defense, led by Stanford-bound libero Malyssa Cawa, which held Mitty to an attack percentage of only .084, with 50 kills and 37 errors. Cawa commended coach Dan O’Dell’s scouting, saying, “We had specific hitters identified and information about where they would hit.”

The Monarchs celebrate with a trophy

The Monarchs celebrate with a trophy

Division 1

Valley Christian-San Jose d. Palos Verdes 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23

Valley Christian, the fifth-place finisher in the Bay Area’s West Catholic Athletic League, put together an amazing performance to defeat the Sea Kings. The Warriors were led by outside hitters Charley Staats with 26 kills and Addison Carbonara with 21 kills. Both the 5-foot-7 Staats and 5-foot-9 Carbonara play libero in club volleyball, yet had success against a tall and talented PV team.

“The key is being able to move the ball around and set the ball fast so as to not let the block set up," Valley Christian setter Hailey Newell said.

Palos Verdes was led by Cal Poly SLO-commit Kendall Beshear with 30 kills and a .311 attack percentage.

Division 2

Campbell Hall d. Sacred Heart Cathedral 25-21, 25-17, 25-14

Campbell Hall minimized errors and sparkled on defense to get the sweep. The Vikings were led by Mila Mijailovic, with 21 kills and only 3 hitting errors for an amazing attack percentage for an outside hitter at .514. Sierra Starkman added 10 kills and setter Althea Morris directed the offense with 39 assists. The Fightin’ Irish were led by Sarah Caulder with 10 kills and 12 digs.

Division 3

Ripon Christian-Ripon d. Redwood-Visalia 26-24, 25-19, 25-15

Ripon Christian went back-to-back in state titles with the sweep. The Knights, winners in Division IV in 2022, were led by Leah Van Wyngarden with 15 kills and Jordan Vander Veen with 11. The Rangers were paced by Kennedy Cutler with 12 kills and Audrey Hyde with nine kills.

Division 4

Glendale d. Marin Academy-San Rafael 25-17, 25-22, 19-25, 25-19

The Dynamiters won via a terrific attack featuring Aleina Manaois with 28 kills, and Eileen Herrera with 17 kills. The Wildcats were paced by Kate Lane with 17 kills. (See video at top of page)

Glendale’s win gave the school their first state title, after recently taking the first section title in school history. Glendale began the season 0-3 and was 7-6 on September 19, then finished the campaign with 33 straight wins.

Division 5

Crystal Springs Uplands d. Oceanside 17-25, 25-23, 25-13, 16-25, 15-11

Crystal took charge in the middle of the match, but the Pirates rebounded to force a fifth set. In the decisive fifth set, Crystal libero Bianca Sladewski served nine straight points to produce an 11-2 lead and the Gryphons held on for the win. For the contest, Sladewski served 10 aces, tied for second most in a match in CIF State history.

Gabby Tomatis paced the Gryphons with 16 kills, Ellie Lee added 10 kills and Elle Beebe had nine kills and six blocks. Oceanside was led by Faye Naotala with 24 kills.

Odds and ends. ... 

  • * Mitty’s Amiya Kuchibhotla provided a major boost to the NorCal Monarchs with an 11-kill night with just one hitting error.
  • * Mater Dei’s Julia Kakkis, a Brown-commit, contributed all over, dishing 39 assists, and adding 12 digs and three kills. She ran a fast-paced offense, as speed to Gordon and Clark beat the Mitty block.
  • * Campbell Hall’s Mila Mijailovich was unstoppable. The Yale-commit ranks second in the state with 602 kills.
  • * In a season of transition, Palos Verdes shined. Kendall Beshear led PV, including on the attack with 600 kills, third in the state.
  • * Ripon Christian moved up from Division IV to Division III in the state playoffs and won again, demonstrating a superb all-around offensive and defensive performance.
  • * Crystal Springs Uplands won its first state title, rebounding from an Oceanside surge to roll in the fifth set. Bianca Sladewski’s serving was the key.
  • * And finally a shoutout to Marin Academy for the large supportive student cheering section, all with “State Bound” T-shirts. .

Final SBLive California Top 20 girls volleyball rankings

1. Mater Dei (Southern Section, 43-2, No. 1 last rating)

Monarchs swept Mira Costa for SS Division 1 title. Rolled past Huntington Beach in five and Cathedral Catholic in an impressive four behind Michigan-bound Cymarrah Gordon’s 17 kills and USD-bound Isabel Clark’s 13 kills and 17 digs. MD then won the CIF State Open Division title by beating Archbishop Mitty.

2. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego Section, 34-5, No. 3)

Dons fought off Torrey Pines-San Diego for the SDS title, 25-17, 25-10, 21-25, 23-25, 15-4. In SoCal play, led by DePaul-bound setter Amanda Seager, Cathedral smashed Marymount-Los Angeles 25-20, 25-15, 25-12 and bounced Costa 25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 25-22. That set up showdown with Mater Dei but the Monarchs prevailed 25-22, 25-20, 19-25, 25-16.

3. Mira Costa (SS, 39-4, was No. 2)

Mustangs fell in the SS title match to Mater Dei, with Monarchs winning 28-26, 25-15, 25-20. MC rebounded to beat Sierra Canyon 25-22, 18-25, 25-16, 25-14 in the SoCal Regionals but lost to Cathedral Catholic to end season. Sophomore Audrey Flanagan bashed 24 kills in the loss to the Dons.

Mira Costa All-American setter Charlie Fuerbringer, who is headed to Wisconsin

Mira Costa All-American setter Charlie Fuerbringer, who is headed to Wisconsin

4. Huntington Beach (SS, 32-9, was No. 4)

In SoCal Regionals, Oilers topped Torrey Pines in one of the best matches of the year, 25-19, 26-24, 21-25 19-25, 16-14. HB faced Mater Dei next and took two of the first three sets, but could not hold off the powerful Monarchs and fell in five.

5. Mitty (Central Coast Section, 33-5, was No. 7)

Monarchs beat rival St. Francis-Mountain View 22-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-19 to win the CCS Open Division title. Mitty next won the NorCal title by edging feisty Branson-Ross 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 27-25 in the semifinals and then topped Lancers again, this time by 25-12, 25-21, 19-25, 25-20. In that match, Notre Dame-bound setter Maya Baker directed an attack that featured 17 kills each from Katelyn Cook and Makayla Crosson. Mitty then faced Mater Dei for the CIF Open Division state title and fell in four.

The Monarchs celebrate

The Monarchs celebrate

6. Torrey Pines (SDS, 24-7, was No. 16)

Falcons lost the SDS Open Division title contest to Cathedral Catholic in five sets. Finley Krystkowiak led Torrey Pines with 21 kills. In SoCal Regional Open Division play, Falcons fell to Huntington Beach, with a 16-14 fifth set. Krystkowiak smacked 31 kills on that night.

7. St. Francis (CCS, 35-6, was No. 5)

Lancers, paced by Duke-commit Taylor Williams and North Carolina-bound Erin Curtis, had the two losses to Mitty. In between, they had a superb victory over powerful Foothill-Pleasanton in the NorCal semifinals, a 25-11, 25-20, 25-19 rout.

8. Foothill (North Coast Section, 37-2, was No. 6)

Dons, led by Paige Bennett and Kaycie Burdick, rallied past Marin Catholic-Kentfield 25-23, 25-27, 17-25, 25-20, 15-7 to win the NCS Division I title. They beat St. Mary’s-Stockton in a NorCal Open Division opener 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21, before falling in a NorCal semifinal to St. Francis, ending a 34-game winning streak.

9. Branson (NCS, 28-5, was No. 15)

Branson blasted Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton in a NorCal Open Division opener 25-15, 25-12, 25-18 and gave Mitty quite a battle, before falling in four with that fourth set a 27-25 decision.

10. Marymount (SS, 28-12, was No. 9)

Sailers enjoyed SS Division I wins over Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth in five and Palos Verdes in five. In the SoCal Regionals, they faced Cathedral Catholic and fell 25-20, 25-15, 25-12.

11. Sierra Canyon (SS, 34-9, was No. 8)

Trailblazers, led by the offensive trio of Boston College-bound Danica Rach, Hawaii-commit Madeline Way and Halie McGinest, lost SoCal Open Division quarterfinal to Costa in four sets. Mustangs beat them 25-22, 18-25, 25-16, 25-14.

12. Los Alamitos (SS, 33-8, was No. 10)

Griffins played well in SS Division I round-robin. In SoCal Regionals, they faced Mater Dei first and Monarchs beat them 25-16, 25-17, 25-17.

13. Palos Verdes (SS, 25-12, was No. 11)

Sea Hawks rolled to SS Division I title by beating Oaks Christian-Westlake Village, JSerra-San Juan Capistrano, Redondo Union-Redondo Beach and La Canada. That advanced them into Saturday’s CIF State title match, where they were upended by Valley Christian. Warriors beat them 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23. PV was led by Kendall Beshear with 30 kills.

14. Campbell Hall (SS, 31-4, was No. 18)

Vikings reached SS D1 final and fell to Beckman, but sparkled in SoCals, beating Exeter, Bakersfield Christian-Bakersfield, El Capitan-Lakeside and South-Torrance. In CIF State D2 final, they smacked Sacred Heart Cathedral 25-21, 25-17, 25-14. Superb all-around effort included 21 kills and only three hitting errors for Mila Mijailovic.

15. St. Mary’s (San Joaquin Section, 32-3, was No. 14)

St. Mary’s swept Folsom 25-22, 25-23, 25-20, and Rocklin 25-21, 25-19, 25-21 to win the SJS Division I title. In NorCal Open Division play, they lost to Foothill as the Dons prevailed 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21. In that match, Mackenna McIntosh belted 26 kills and Kaydence Bispo added 16 kills.

16. Beckman-Irvine (SS, 35-6, was No. 13)

Great win for Beckman to top Campbell Hall for SS D3 crown 25-22, 25-15, 15-25, 25-19. In SoCal D1 Regional, Patriots fell at San Luis Obispo 27-25, 25-23, 25-21.

17. La Canada (SS, 30-13, NR)

In SoCal D1 Regionals, 14th-seeded Spartans upset Bishop’s-La Jolla in four sets, Orange Lutheran-Orange in three, San Luis Obispo in three, then fell by only 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 to Palos Verdes.

18. Alemany (SS, 25-11, was No. 12)

Alemany beat Eastlake-Chula Vista in SoCal D1 Regionals, then lost to Redondo. RU topped Warriors 23-25, 25-23, 25-12, 25-22.

19. JSerra Catholic (SS, 32-11, was No. 17)

Lions swept Orange Lutheran to win SS D2 title. In SoCal D1 playoffs, JSerra beat Edison-Huntington Beach and then fell to Palos Verdes. Sea Kings beat them 25-23, 10-25, 25-20, 25-22. Yes, JSerra won the cumulative score 90-85 but lost in four. In that match, freshman Katherine Nowak smashed 14 kills, Colorado-bound Tatum Johnson and UC Irvine-commit Jessica Bates each put down 11 and Reese Brown added 10 kills.

20. Redondo (SS, 26-14, was Not Rated)

Sea Hawks fell in SS Division II to Orange Lutheran. In SoCal D1 playoffs, Redondo lost in semifinals to Palos Verdes in five sets.

On the bubble: San Luis Obispo (Central Section), Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton (CCS), St. Ignatius-San Francisco (CCS), Valley Christian (CCS), Orange Lutheran (SS), Oaks Christian (SS), Buchanan-Clovis (CS).

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