La Jolla Vikings fall to league champs, 3-1

La Jolla High loses in first round of CIF playoffs

Girls Volleyball: San Dieguito High School Mustangs 3, La Jolla High School Vikings 1

By Ed Piper

What happens when a young, inexperienced team looking up collides with CIF reorganization of playoff divisions by past performance rather than school enrollment? The La Jolla’s girls volleyball team gets caught in the rotors of the San Dieguito Mustang Avocado League champs, losing 3-1 in the first round of the CIF playoffs Nov. 13.

The younger Vikings (16- 18 overall, 4-6 in the Western League), on the road, showed flashes of success, as they had during their season of growth and getting their footing:

■ Down 25-12 after losing the first game of a best-of-five match, La Jolla battled back to win the second game 25-23 on a block by senior Simone Stavros, a serve by sophomore Amanda Polcyn, and finally Emma Willis’ kill on the clinching point. Willis totaled 8 kills on the night.

Hitter-middle blocker Madeleine Gates, playing loose, showed some of her brilliance with a kill to send the Vikings up 24-21 during the comeback run of the second run. Gates had 11 kills in the match and registered a 42.2 percent kill rate for the season, an elite performance.

■ The red and black almost came back to salvage a win in the pivotal third game, eventually losing 27- 25. But not before tallying points on a tip and a kill by senior captain Clare Farley, then a two-handed bump by senior Riley Young with her back to the net and her block after a long volley between the two teams to tie 24-24.

■ Remarked Farley at the conclusion: “We knew that it was going to be a tough match. I think that, at first, we were a little bit intimidated by the environment. The fans were a little crazy. But I think our team, being able to pull it together, take that (second) game, and come so close (in the third game) was a big accomplishment for us. It proved that our team has come together over the course of this season. We’ve been able to fight through tough situations like that. In the end, that’s what really matters.”

The Vikings spent 2013 in a rebuilding mode, having experienced a lot of success in recent years. Facing powerful San Dieguito reminds them of the level they want to build back to next year. Gates, libero Helen Lee (injured and unable to play Nov. 13), Polcyn, and setter Chloe Luyties are all sophomores.

Said Gates, obviously disappointed: “There were still times (after first game jitters, when the Vikings played poorly) when we were down. It just didn’t (come together).” She agreed this experience in CIF will help next year: “Pressure — there will be more pressure situations. It’s good practice (for the future).”

Said La Jolla coach David Jones: “It has been a tough season. We’re a pretty young team still. We’ve got 3 seniors, 3 juniors, 7 sophomores. So if you look at the bigger picture, we’re playing in a new division (Division 1) this year. Potentially, had we still been in Division 3, this might have been our year to take advantage of Cathedral Catholic. We’ve got some highlights of the season: we beat Vista Murrieta, which is one of the top teams in the CIF Southern Section just a week ago up in Redondo Beach. We are really an ag- gressive team when we pass. It all comes together. But that was missing a little bit.”

■ Game stats — Kills: Madeleine Gates 11, Clare Farley 9, Emma Willis 8, Simone Stavros 5, Riley Young 2, Amanda Polcyn 2. Assists: Chloe Luyties 13, Abby Waldburger 12. Digs: Polcyn 23, Waldburger 21, Farley 15, Sophia Eliopulos 7, Brynn Duguid 5, Stavros 3, Luyties 2, Amy Peckham 1, Gates 1.