The CIF Southern Section girls’ volleyball playoffs begin on Thursday, and the city of Long Beach is sending its best-ever crop of six teams to try and win a championship. Long Beach Poly, Lakewood, Wilson, Millikan, St. Anthony, and Avalon will compete in five divisions to try and win the city’s first CIF-SS title since Poly won in 2010.
“We’re all better in so many ways this year and I am happy to be a part of it,” said Lakewood coach Mike Wadley.
For the first time ever, all six Long Beach teams headed to the playoffs are ranked in their respective CIF-SS division. The Jackrabbits are No. 9 in Division 1, Lakewood is No. 9 in Division 2, Wilson is No. 5 in Division 3, Millikan is No. 6 in Division 3, St. Anthony is No. 3 in Division 4, and Avalon is No. 2 in Division 9.
Any one of them is capable of winning a CIF-SS or state championship in what could be a historic year for the sport.
The Jackrabbits (26-7) made the super-elite Division 1 ranks, where the top 12 teams in Southern California will compete beginning on Wednesday, as the Jackrabbits will travel to Aliso Niguel. It’s a tough draw for Poly to be on the road as a league champion, but the good news is that Division 1 being 12 teams (instead of the planned 16) means Poly has also already clinched a berth in the CIF State playoffs.
“I think we’re playing well, things are starting to click for us,” said Poly coach Leland McGrath after his team’s Moore League championship sweep of Lakewood last week.
A win over Aliso Niguel would put Poly into the final eight, where they’d travel to Redondo Union in the quarterfinals on the following Wednesday, Oct. 30.
Lakewood (20-16) finished second in the Moore League, but figure to be in the thick of things in Division 2 this playoffs.
“We are right where we are supposed to be,” said Wadley. “I actually have no complaints.”
The two teams in the Division 2 finals last year were seeded No. 7 and No. 8, and Wadley’s squad has the talent to make a similar run. Their challenge is with a host of freshmen and sophomores starting, they’ll need to be consistent this postseason. They open with a home match against Alemany on Thursday, then would face the winner of Beckman and Dana Hills on Saturday in the second round.
Wilson (21-13) and Millikan (17-12) enter the Division 3 playoffs this week, both with chances to make a deep run.
The Bruins have a rare amount of athleticism for a D3 team, with Risa Sena healthy and ready to go alongside several other key contributors.
“I think our girls should be excited about the possibilities this year,” said Wilson coach Carlos Briceno. “I believe we control our own destiny. If we can control our emotions and be patient with one another, we can compete with anyone in our division.”
The Bruins open on the road against Villa Park Thursday, with a second round on Saturday.
Millikan will travel to Rosary Academy on Tuesday for a Wild Card game since they were the Moore League’s fourth seed. The Rams are much improved though, and Mina Barajas could make some big noise on Tuesday. A win there would put Millikan on the road at La Habra on Thursday.
St. Anthony (29-6) is no stranger to postseason success. Head coach Alicia Lemau’u has led the Saints boys’ and girls’ teams to the semifinals in the last year, and the Saints are geared up for another postseason run as they enter the D4 playoffs ranked No. 3 after finishing second in the Del Rey League. The Saints host Sunny Hills on Thursday in a first-round playoff match.
Avalon (30-4) won the Express League championship and is seeded No. 2 in the Division 9 playoffs, with a good chance to make a deep run. The Lancers will host Southwestern Academy in the first round on Thursday.