By Jeremy Balan
As dominant as the Lowell High School girls volleyball program has been in the Academic Athletic Association since the San Francisco Section began playing the sport in 1974, it has never been able to carry that success over into the CIF State Tournament.
That trend continued on Tuesday, when the seventh-seeded Cardinals dropped their opening-round Division I matchup to second-seeded Granite Bay 25-15, 25-16, 25-15 at Lowell.
The Cardinals (23-11) have been to six state tournaments since 2003, but have yet to escape the first round.
“None of the eight teams in this tournament were going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beatable,” said Lowell head coach Steven Wesley. “Obviously, we could hang. If we just stayed tough and kept going for it, we could have beat them.”
The Cardinals hung around early in each game and even held an 11-7 lead in the first, but kept allowing extended Granite Bay runs.
The Grizzlies (40-6) ended the first game on an 18-4 run, went on a 13-4 run in the second and finished off the third with a 13-5 surge.
Junior outside hitter Maddy Deters led the Grizzlies with a match-high 11 kills.
“It usually takes a while for us to warm up. We had a 3-hour drive and definitely sat in traffic for a while,” said Granite Bay head coach Jamie Ingram. “We came into a different environment — a new area — and didn’t really know what to expect.”
Although the Lowell attack struggled as a whole, the defense, led by a standout effort by senior libero Melissa See, kept the Cardinals in points by extending long rallies.
“We have a lot of club players and they play a lot of these girls, and they know traditionally, San Francisco has great defensive teams,” Ingram said. “They understand they have to be patient and eventually [the balls] will drop.”
Lowell’s success in game one was mostly due to the momentum created by junior middle blocker Amorelle Applin, who had three kills and two point-scoring blocks in the first frame, and finished with a team-high six kills, three blocks and two aces in the match.
“We moved her around a little bit,” Wesley said. “She has some range no matter where we put her . . . but she’s our best blocking force as well.”
Sophomore outside hitter Eileen Shi also had six kills and both will be a large part of the Cardinals’ continuing quest to seek their first state tournament win.
“It’s going to start with the younger ages and how hard we push them,” Wesley said. “I do think that this is a group that can do it.”