ORANGE — They headed home with the second-biggest trophy. But nobody showed bigger heart over a historic and memorable season than the South Pas High varsity volleyball girls.
The Tigers lost 3-1 to the Lowell High Cardinals of San Francisco on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College in the Division 3 state championship game — falling one win short of their dream but still writing their names in school history as one of South Pasadena’s forever teams.
“I think we really put South Pas on the map,” sophomore star Abby Garner said afterward.
After winning the SoCal Division 3 regional championship at home last Tuesday with a dramatic 3-1 over Palm Desert, the Tigers traveled 55 miles south to represent all of Southern California in their first ever state finals appearance.
They went down by two sets and captured the third, but another heart-stopping comeback was not to be.
“I think we brought a lot of energy to the court, and we didn’t come out with our best play until the third set and late in the fourth set, but overall, it was a really fun season,” Garner said.
Head coach Ivy Chew was proud as well.
“Honestly, it was a great feeling [being in this game] because we had closed out our [last] practice of the season, and we had a really big team bonding … and I think it really rallied us up pretty well,” Chew said.
“We had that energy to come in and represent not just the school but the community itself.”
South Pasadena got off to a good start, but Lowell stuck around to win the first set 25-21. The second set was the opposite, with Lowell dominating the net and winning 25-21.
Lowell did a good job attacking South Pasadena at the net in the first two sets. The Tigers didn’t have an answer until the third.
South Pas saw its backs against the wall and pulled together a 25-23 third-set win. Lowell led in the beginning, but the Tigers gained momentum and fixed what was needed to close out the set.
The pressure began mounting for Lowell as the Tigers were attempting a comeback — a feat that wouldn’t be impossible since South Pas was able to complete a come-from-behind win in the regional semifinals against Linfield Christian.
The fourth set was a back-and-forth battle, but Lowell dominated most of the set, leading by as many as nine points. The Tigers put together a small run to get the deficit to within four points, but it was too late. Lowell scored once more to win the final set 25-20 and secure the trophy.
Junior Lola Foord finished the game with 17 kills, six of them in the final set of the game. She is at the top of the leaderboard in the CIF Southern Section Division IV and ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section with 481 kills on the season.
Garner finished the game with 10 kills.
“I think our serving was good for the most part,’’ Garner said. “Our offense was pretty strong — I think we just struggled with shutting down their really big middle.”
South Pasadena’s season is over, but the Tigers’ future is bright after a state run that many didn’t see coming.
Overall, the Tigers finished 30-6, including a 10-0 record in the Rio Hondo League, plus three Division 4 Southern Section playoff wins and four Division 3 Regional wins.
They’re losing only two seniors to graduation, so 2020 packs much promise. South Pas also will retain all three of its captains, and its rotation will likely be the same next season.
“Every single time going into each game or any competition, we take every one as an experience, so seeing how fast we came, what we did, and how we came up short is what we won’t take into next year and actually take it and get better from there,” Chew said.
It’s uncertain if South Pasadena is planning a move up to Division 3 in the Southern Section, but after beating teams in California Division 1 in the first two rounds of their state run, it’s a possibility. The Tigers have been in Division 4 since 2017 but were in Division 3 the previous year and spent many years in Division II-AA prior to that.