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Cardinals ride the mo’

Santa Clarita Christian reaches Div. V-AA quarters

Posted: November 13, 2008 10:11 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Santa Clarita Christian outside hitter Karla Eberline reaches up to hit one of her 11 kills Thursday at SCCS against Rolling Hills Prep.

Momentum in sports is a powerful force.

Just ask head coach Matt Wilkins and his Rolling Hills Prep Eagles.

After overcoming the din of the small gymnasium at Santa Clarita Christian to take a 22-21 lead in the first game of the CIF-Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs on Thursday evening, an emotional switch turned things completely around.

After an out-of-bounds hit tied the score, SCCS went on to score four straight to pull out the hard-earned victory 25-21, then rolled Rolling Hills back to San Pedro in three straight with back-to-back 25-11 triumphs.

"Momentum was important to us," said SCCS senior Kristina Gibson, who finished with nine kills and six aces (five in the final set). "We've never played them before and did not know what to expect, but when we took that late lead in game one, we knew we could pull it out."

Utilizing a mixture of booming spikes, high-speed aces and tactical tap-overs, the Cardinals (13-3, 6-2 in the Heritage League) took control in game two grabbing a 16-8 lead when the ball hit the low ceiling in the small gym.

"Yeah, it's a bit small, but it's very loud," Wilkins said. "But I don't blame that, though. We made some mental mistakes and couldn't set the ball to our big hitters. We played tough in that first game, but when we lost, it was hard to fight back."

A series of Cardinals unforced errors allowed the Eagles (9-2, 4-2 in the Harbor League) to cut it to 16-10. But several huge spikes by SCCS senior Karla Eberlein pushed it to 23-11 and then, a few moments later, closed it down with another banging return.

Like Atlas, Eberlein put the entire squad on her back and carried over the set two finish line.

"They worried us a bit during the first set, but we picked ourselves up and managed to pull it out," said Gibson, who recorded one ace, seven blocks and 11 kills.

"I'm the kind of player that tries to pump the girls up when we get down. I want the ball in my hands, basically, when things are on the line. I knew I could help us and I'm glad I was able to."

Down 0-2 and with desperation setting in for the visitors, they tied set three at 2-2 before disaster struck.

A series of laser-like aces by Gibson, as well as several unforced errors, gave Santa Clarita Christian an insurmountable 11-2 advantage. Minutes later, with the aid of an ace by Carli Broadbent, a spike by Kaley Morrison and more Eagles mistakes, the home girls took a 22-7 lead.

Rolling Hills fought back, however, led by junior outside hitter Cathy Lueng, but in the end, it was Morrison putting the ball and the match away with a blast from the corner that was first called out by a back judge, but then overruled by the referee.

"Our nerves got to us and we made some dumb mistakes in the first set, but we climbed back into it," said 15-year Cardinals head coach Darcy Brown. "Karla was absolutely on fire in that second set, plus Kristina, Carli, Kaley and the other girls really came together after that. Late in the third set, I worried a bit about a letdown, but I could see they were having fun and playing well. That's the way we finished."

SCCS will play a round two match on Saturday against either Fairmont Prep or Lucerne Valley.


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