By Jeremy Balan
MORAGA — Momentum can be difficult to gauge in a volleyball match, but there was no doubt it was up for grabs in the second game of the CIF Division III state tournament second round match between Sacred Heart Cathedral and Campolindo High School.
The visiting Irish erased a 24-21 deficit to tie the game at 24-24 and 25-25, but Campolindo senior Abbie Noland pounded two consecutive kills to seal the crucial frame in Campolindo’s 25-16, 27-25, 25-14 win on Saturday.
“We needed that one,” said Sacred Heart head coach Margi Beima. “And when it didn’t go our way, I think it took the wind out of our sails.”
The loss in the second game was visibly deflating for the Irish (29-11), and top-seeded Campolindo (32-4) cruised in the third game to seal its bid to the NorCal title game against third-seeded Sir Francis Drake on Tuesday.
“That’s a good team we lost to. There’s a reason they got the No. 1 seed,” Beima said.
What was most impressive about the Cougars’ performance was the way they dictated play throughout. Campolindo scored 62 of its 75 points on kills, led by 20 kills apiece from seniors Noland and Mary Vaccaro, who has committed to play at Army next fall. To contrast, Sacred Heart recorded 29 total kills.
“We’re playing at a really good level right now,” said Campolindo head coach Scott Bishop. “Everything has been clicking really well in the last month.”
Five other Cougars would record kills, including senior middle blocker Chandler Moore.
“We’ve definitely got some go-to players, but everyone is stepping up,” Bishop said. “We’re really tough to beat when everyone is playing well.”
Lost in the Campolindo offensive outburst was a game performance by Sacred Heart senior outside hitter Kelly Ostello, who had a team-high 13 kills and nearly won the second game single-handedly for the Irish.
Ostello had nine kills in the second game, and accounted for Sacred Heart’s final five points in the game, on four kills and a block on Vaccaro a attack.
“I’m glad that we ended the season fighting and we didn’t just give them the win,” Ostello said. “We worked our way here and that’s something not a lot of teams can say. It just didn’t go or way tonight.”
With the loss, the Irish will not extend their streak of three consecutive state championship game appearances, but they will return three sophomores and five juniors next season, looking to make their eighth consecutive trip to the state tournament.
“We’re playing a lot of youngins out there, kids who have not really gone deep in the postseason,” Beima said. “Every year is new, but it’s never fun to end your season.”