By Jeremy Balan
What was so impressive about the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls volleyball team’s non-league match on the road against University wasn’t that the Irish won, it was how they won.
The Irish displayed tremendous depth in a 26-17, 25-12, 25-12 sweep of the Red Devils on Tuesday, with 10 players recording multiple kills. (Editor’s note: Due to a scorekeeping error, Sacred Heart was not credited a point in the first game and actually scored 26 points to win game one).
A quartet of reserve underclassmen — juniors Christina Lalor, Mikayla Patterson, Chelsea Ivana Munchua and sophomore Madison Wong — didn’t record a kill in the first two games, but combined for 15 kills in the third.
Sacred Heart sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Jochum, who also didn’t start, tallied a team-high six kills.
“There’s very few matches where we’re not using 14 or 15 players,” said Sacred Heart head coach Margi Beima. “I want everybody ready, because they can come in and do a good job.”
The Red Devils (3-2) appeared to be prepared to go toe-to-toe with last season’s Northern California Division III regional finalists in the first game, when they erased an early deficit to force a 13-13 tie, but a nagging issue arose.
Sacred Heart (3-0) recorded 11 aces (junior Gabriela Ruvalcaba led the way with three) and the Red Devils struggled receiving serves throughout.
“We work on serve receive nonstop in practice because it’s the most important aspect of the game,” said University head coach Nicole Schott. “We’re very young and getting them to understand the technical aspects of serve receive is just tough.”
When University did get the opportunity to run its offense, however, the Red Devils did not disappoint.
With freshman setter Samantha Lam and a trio of powerful hitters, the Red Devils showed the ability to get the ball past a very good Irish block. University sophomore outside hitter Annabel Joost finished with a match-high eight kills, while senior Caroline Joost — also an outside hitter and Annabel’s older sister — and sophomore middle blocker Jaelah Hutchison added five kills apiece.
“They’re pretty physical,” Schott said of the University hitters. “Our setter makes good decisions for a freshman, but we still have a lot to work on. We have the offensive options, but it comes down to whether we can put it all together.”
As much potential as the Red Devils may have, they were simply outclassed by the Irish in the final two games. Sacred Heart jumped out to large early leads in each and University could not battle back due to a standout defensive effort by the Irish back line.
“Our defense was great,” Beima said. “We had 40-something digs, and for a [three-game] match, that’s pretty good.”
Video highlights by George Nguyen