First published in the Oct. 1 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
It was a challenging but exciting league match between South Pasadena High School (29-6 overall, 3-1 in league) and host La Cañada’s varsity girls’ volleyball teams.
A powerhouse matchup between two of the premier teams in the area — and the CIF division — ended with the Tigers losing narrowly in five sets, 21-25, 30-28, 26-24, 21-25, 15-10.
Despite the defeat, a complete team effort with several outstanding performances kept the match competitive.
“They just kept fighting. They didn’t give up, and they learned to turn things around. Everyone stepped up,” SPHS head coach Ivy Chew said. “It doesn’t matter that we lost today. I think they showed exactly what they are capable of.”
The first set was tied 3-3 when South Pasadena’s senior Abby Garner tapped the ball past a leaping La Cañada defense to break the tie, 4-3. Back-to-back kills by the Tigers’ sophomore Helena Foord and junior Ava Dorny broke another tie, 9-8, and gave SPHS a lead they didn’t relinquish for the rest of the set. The first set was highlighted by senior Kennedy Taylor’s three kills, including the set winner, to edge LCHS, 25-21.
Kennedy Taylor opened the highest-scoring set with a strong kill, but LCHS answered right back to tie it. Foord and Zahn tallied kills later in the set to end La Cañada’s rally and tie it, 21-21. Zahn and Abby Garner traded three and one kills, respectively, with La Cañada to claim the South Pasadena’s last lead of the set, 27-26. However, La Cañada ultimately came back and won, 30-28.
The Tigers were behind for almost the entirety of the third set, but they persevered — due to several La Cañada errors, along with kills by Abby Garner and Zahn — to retake a late 21-20 lead. SPHS’ rally ended after La Cañada scored four straight times to win, 26-24.
The Tigers found some life in the fourth set. Down by three points and aided by Foord’s and Jenna Garner’s kills, SPHS scored five straight times to reclaim a 12-10 lead. South Pasadena found another scoring streak punctuated with a terrific block by Abby Garner and Dorny to extend the lead to 20-16. After a brief rally by La Cañada, SPHS ended the set victorious, 25-21, with two blocks from Foord and Kennedy Taylor, and a kill by Jenna Garner.
The fifth set ended in heartbreak fashion for SPHS as its undefeated league record went by the wayside in the 15-10 set loss. Jenna Garner, Abby Garner, Foord and Kennedy Taylor did their best to keep the set tight.
“I know for sure that the second time around, it’s going to be a different gameplay,” Chew said. “My team’s really good at taking every play and everything else that we’ve done and take it as a lesson learned.”
Chew said everyone stepped up, and several players shined. Abby Garner had a team-high 15 kills, while Kennedy Taylor added 11, and Zahn and Foord each added 10. Jenna Garner and Ava Dorny recorded six kills, and senior Samantha Molina tallied one.
Senior Alyssa Sokolow and Abby Garner each had a team-high 28 digs, while Jenna Garner tallied 19. Sophomore Kendall Taylor (eight), Dorny (seven), Molina (five) and sophomore Mia Ramos (one) completed the Tigers’ 96 team digs.
Abby Garner was superb with an additional team-high 15 total blocks; Zahn recorded nine total blocks. Dorny logged six, both Foord and Kennedy Taylor recorded five, and senior Evelyn Dowd added four.