Poly Volleyball
Long Beach Poly Volleyball

PREVIEW: Long Beach Poly vs. Mater Dei, CIF Girls’ Volleyball

The biggest match in Southern California is taking place at Long Beach Poly this evening as the Jackrabbits host No. 1 Mater Dei at 6 p.m. in the Ron Palmer Pavilion. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students with ID at a rare match that will have both sides of the stands pulled out and what’s sure to be an electric atmosphere. Poly is expecting a sellout.

“I told the girls let’s appreciate this opportunity,” said Poly coach Leland McGrath. “Getting to play in that type of environment, you don’t get to do that most places.”

The Monarchs roll into town as a juggernaut, with a 36-2 record and the top ranking in the state. Their only two losses came in three-set tournament matches, and Mater Dei is one of the deepest teams that local coaches can remember seeing.

“There isn’t really a weak link there,” said McGrath.

Natalie Berty (Stanford commit) leads the hitters backed up by Kristina Pepek (UC Santa Barbara), Brielle Mullally (Providence), and Meg Brown (Alabama). Running the offense is junior Mia Tuaniga, the younger sister of NCAA men’s volleyball National Player of the Year Josh and a Long Beach State commit.

There’s no doubt that the Monarchs are stacked–libero Mandalay Rennon is going to Nevada, giving them six Division 1-committed players on the court at any given time.

The Jackrabbits are no slouches either, of course, something McGrath was firm on.

“This isn’t David vs. Goliath,” he said. “This needs to be Goliath vs. Goliath–we’re good too. We’re physical, if we play well and they play well it should be a great match.”

Poly setter Liz Schuster (Fullerton) has been running the Jackrabbits’ offense at an efficient clip in the last three weeks, spreading the ball to Allanah Cutler (West Point), middle blocker Onye Ofoegbue (UC Irvine) and freshmen stars Adonia Faumuina and Rylie McGinest. Poly’s ability to pull an upset will depend on their block and its ability to move with Tuaniga’s quick sets, and their passing. Sofia Skukan and Alexis Durand were solid for Poly in a first-round sweep of Mira Costa, and they’ll need to play their best match for the Jackrabbits to beat Mater Dei.

One way or the other, this won’t be the end of the line for the Jackrabbits, who’ve clinched a CIF State berth by advancing to the Division 1 quarterfinals. We will have live updates from the match on the website.


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.