ALISO VIEGO, CA- The joy of victory, the agony of defeat, and the power of that 7th man- a boisterous crowd. Last night's playoff matchup between the St. Lucy Regents and the Aliso Niguel Wolverines was a classic battle where the home court advantage may have been the difference. The Wolverines, a very young and extremely talented team, came into the match with a perfect home record on the season, and it's not hard to see why. They boast a robust crowd which is highlighted by an active and abundant student section. Although the Regents won 105 points in the match, as compared to the Wolverines 104 points, Aliso Niguel took the points that mattered the most. In the end, it was the Aliso Niguel student section that rushed the floor at the end of the 5 set match to congratulate their warriors on the 29-27, 25-18, 20-25, 15-25, 15-10 win.
It took the Regents a few points to settle into the first set. Roni LaPierre's tool of the 6' 5" block gave the Regents a 1-1 start, but the Wolverines took the next three points to get out to a lead. Loryn Carter put a tip over the big block to cut the lead to 4-2 and both sides started playing tough defense and extended rallies. St. Lucy's chipped away with hustling defense and was able to catch up at 6 all on a Sydney Bast tip. But the Wolverines pack an offensive whollup with their freshman middle standout Kirsten Battle, 6'5" sophomore setter/opposite Kathryn Plummer and hard swinging junior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins. The teams traded points and the level of play was what would be expected in a championship match, not the second round, The Regents grabbed their first lead at 10-9 on a Brennen Miller ace. Juliet McClure's serving run saw St. Lucy's stretch their lead to 5, 16-11, before the Wolverines rediscovered their footing. It was Aliso Niguel's turn to play catch up and Carter did all that she could to impede their push, crushing a shot cross court to maintain the 18-14 edge. Plummer worked around the Regents, setting over the net on two to cut it the lead 19-16, which she followed with a short serve for an ace, 19-17, and a block on the outside, 19-18. The Regents took a time out and the crowd got LOUD! The Regents came back with focus, Rachel Cavanaugh put one down to stop the Wolverine threat and Bast put down consecutive aces to give the Regents the late lead 22-18. Spurred on by their crowd, the Wolverines had no quit, chasing down balls that were barely dug, keeping them in play and ultimately finding the opening in the Regent defense to win a key rally 22-20. LaPierre put the left handed tip down the line and Natalie Caro knocked one off of the block to give the Regents the first set point 24-21. Battle dug in and got the next kill and an ace leaving the Regents with one set point remaining, 24-23. The play planned out during the timeout did not work, and it was knotted at 24 on a Regent hitting error. Carter put the next one down cross court to give the Regents the ball and their fourth shot at the set. Plummer blasted one off of the block to tie it up. Carter crushed the next one straight down the line for the Regents fifth set point opportunity. Plummer tooled the block again to even it up, and the Wolverines got the next kill and their first set point, up 27-26. Carter stopped them with another cross court blast and it was 27 all. Battle put one down off a back row bic attack and Aliso had their second chance to close out the set- and they did. Set one went to the Wolverines 29-27.
Set two was a back and forth affair at the start. Aliso was picking up every deflection and turning broken plays into points. The Regents were staying with them for a while, but the Wolverines started winning the extended rallies and pulling away. Down by 3, the Regents took time to talk it out. Plummer was scoring point after point off of the much smaller block and Wolverines worked the lead up to five, 17-12. Sarah Bruchet's ace to cut the lead to 17-13 prompted an immediate time out call by the Aliso coach. The next serve went wide. Aliso put an exclamation on their dominance of this set, giving freshman ds Jenna Bailey a nasty facial and themselves a 21-15 edge. LaPierre took the ball back with a solo block on the bic attempt and the Regents looked like they were going to make a late push, but they got in their own way with a net violation. Bast held the inevitable off for one point with a nice swing from the outside to find the floor, but Aliso responded with a tip over the block for the win 25-18.
With their backs against the wall, the Regents came out hard in the third set. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a LaPierre kill off the block, a tip over the block and a McClure ace. Bast got into the action with good vision to find the hole in the block and then the floor. Aliso dug in and battled back to knot the score at 7, 8, 9 and 10. Natalie Caro put together a tough service run, forcing an Aliso overpass that Cavanaugh put straight back down, and the Regents regained their three point lead 14-11. Aliso's time out was effective, because they came back to take their first lead of the set at 16-15. Cavanaugh used the Wolverine block to get the Regents level at 16. The teams played even for a while, with the score tied at 17, 18 and 19. LaPierre served a well timed ace to push ahead 20-19 and Carter consolidated the lead with a blast off of the block, 21-19 St. Lucy's. Carter came up big at the end of the set, not with her hammer shots, but with smart tips and use of the block, which combined with a Bast tool of the block earned a 24-20 edge for the Regents. Aliso sent a kill attempt long and the Regents took the third set 25-20.
The Regents did not carry their momentum into the next set as one might expect, but fell behind 4-2 to start. LaPierre cut the lead to one with an ace, but gave the next one back with a serve into the net. Carter erased the lead with a scorching cross court kill off of a Caro set for the 5-5 tie. Carter's roof and the Regents' relentless defense pushed Lucy's ahead 8-6, even though the Wolverines were still making great digs, deflecting balls and even putting them over the net from their knees. The Regent determination started to pay off and the luck and momentum seemed to move into their court. For the first time in the match it was the Regents who were poking balls over on reflex and getting the kill. Lucy's built a 13-7 lead, and Bast's ace to push it to 14-7 seemed to frazzle Aliso for a while. The Regents watched their lead dwindle a bit when Aliso took advantage of a tough Lucy rotation. The Regents gave up three points in a row, the last being a four touch call after LaPierre knocked a shot up with her head, Bruchet put it back into the middle of the court, and the Regents attempted to pass the ball instead of sending it over the net. Douglas called timeout to stem the tide, Lucy's leading 15-11. The time out was effective. LaPierre got a kill off of the high hands of the big Aliso block to push the lead to 18-11. Caro utilized the tip, tip, tip, for the 21-12 lead. LaPierre's serve split the defenders and hit the ground untouched for the 22-12 edge. Aliso's powerful offense made a three point run, but LaPierre roll shot one into the middle of the court to stop the movement, 23-15. Carter crashed the next ball off of the block for the 24-15 lead, and Cavanaugh finished the set with her own tool of the block to give the Regents the 25-15 win.
Going into the fifth set, the Regents had the momentum, the Wolverines had the crowd. "Are you nervous?", the crowd cried. Apparently we were. The Regents fell behind early on a serve into the net, a shot that barely went wide, a shot straight into the block and a shot that sailed long. Douglas called time out trailing 4-1, and the crowd went wild! LaPierre sent the next shot down the line and off of the block to gain control of the ball. Another ace serve got the Regents within two and a free ball pushed to the deep middle of the court got the Regents within one, trailing 6-5, when the Wolverines took a minute to talk. Aliso was first to 8 and took advantage, pushing ahead 11-7. The Regents called a second time out, but it was too little too late. The Wolverine's came back and put the next serve on the back line for an ace and the 12-7 lead. The Regents sided out, and Miller got an ace to cut the edge to 13-9, but Plummer smartly tipped the next point over the block to get Aliso it's first match point at 14-9. LaPierre found a seam in the block to put the ball down and keep the Regents alive, but the Wolverine's easily handled the next serve, set the outside, and finished the game, set, match and season for the Regents 15-10.
So for the second year in a row, the Regents miss their much anticipated rematch with La Salle by losing a five set battle on the road before they could get there. The stat leaders for the evening were Juliet McClure with 56 assists and 6 digs, Loryn Carter with 21 kills and 2 blocks, Rachael Cavanaugh with 8 kills and 1 block, Sydney Bast with 9 kills, 15 digs and 3 aces, Natalie Caro with 6 kills, 5 digs and 1 block, and Roni LaPierre with a double-double, 21 kills, 16 digs, 5 aces and 1 block.
Congrats on a well played season Regents. This blog is officially defunct!