Long Beach Poly’s girls’ volleyball team knew it needed everything to go right in order to pull off a huge upset of CIF-SS Division 1 No. 1-ranked Mater Dei on Wednesday evening.
The Jackrabbits knew they needed a great playoff atmosphere on their home court so they packed the stands, opening the bleachers on both sides of the floor. They knew they needed their youngsters to step up big, and they did, with Adonia Faumuina (14 kills, one error) and Rylie McGinest (five kills, four blocks) playing above their years.
They also knew they needed the ball to bounce their way on some 50/50 plays–that one didn’t happen. The Jackrabbits had a good chance to win the second set and drag the Monarchs into a back-and-forth slugfest, but missed on a narrow call and ended up losing in straight sets, 25-18, 25-23, 25-22.
After Mater Dei impressed in the first set with the speed and depth of their offensive attack, Poly battled back in set two to take a 21-20 lead on one of three straight kills by Allanah Cutler. The Monarchs tied it at 23, and Cutler ripped a shot that landed on or just behind the Monarchs’ end line. The corner official raised the flag immediately to signal it had gone long, drawing loud boos from the crowd and a reaction from the normally reserved Poly coach Leland McGrath, who pointed emphatically at the line to signal that it was in.
“That was a big point,” he said. “It looked in to me.”
Instead of Poly going up 24-23, the Monarchs took the lead and, one point later, the set on an ace.
“Mater Dei is one of the best high school teams I’ve ever seen,” said McGrath. “They play amazing defense for a team with that much size. I was really impressed.”
Mater Dei’s lineup featured six Division 1-committed players. The Monarchs will advance to host Sierra Canyon on Saturday in the semifinals.
Poly had plenty to take positives from. Setter Liz Schuster spread the ball around well and Faumuina and McGinest showed that they’re already ready for the big time. Onye Ofoegbue was a stud in the middle with 10 kills and four blocks. Cutler had nine kills in the match as well.
The Jackrabbits will get a chance to bounce back as they’re guaranteed a berth in the CIF State playoffs, with brackets set to be released two Sunday from now, and the first match scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6. Poly will almost certainly avoid the powerhouse Open Division and end up as one of the top teams in the Division 1 bracket, with a very legitimate shot at a state championship.