Top seeds Torrey Pines, Cathedral Catholic start march to CIF finals showdown Saturday
The 2019 CIF Open Division girls’ volleyball playoffs Saturday (Nov. 1-2) and if form holds, when the championship match rolls around one week later, two North Coast squads will clash for section supremacy.
With Torrey Pines seeded No. 1 and Cathedral Catholic No. 2, local volleyball fans are already anticipating a rematch of last fall’s title contest where Torrey prevailed, 3-1, to capture its second straight Open banner.
Of course, all teams have to navigate quarterfinal and semi-final matches before reaching the championship. Starting post-season play at home, Torrey Pines goes against eighth-seed Del Norte while Cathedral locks horns with No. 7 seed La Jolla Country Day. First serves are set for 5 p.m. Both will be facing teams they defeated in September. Here’s a look at the two favorites:
Torrey Pines Head Coach: Brennan Dean (9th year)
2019 Record: 32-2
League: Avocado West (10-0/1st)
Past CIF Titles: Open (5), Division I (6), Division II (6)
Cathedral Catholic Head Coach: Juliana Evens (5th year)
2019 Record: 28-4
League: Western (8-0/1st)
Past CIF Titles: Division II (2)
Division III (14)
Dean would certainly be front and center in any conversation about the premier volleyball coaches in San Diego, having taken over a traditionally strong program in 2011 and winning seven CIF crowns in his first eight years. Dean’s ledger at Torrey is a phenomenal 240-44 (.845).
Evens, who had just two years of club coaching on her resume before taking the reins at Cathedral Catholic, has proven that selection to be an astute move. Her win-loss record is nearly as impressive as Dean’s with a .796 winning percentage (137-35).
In an interesting sidebar, Evens also coaches at WAVE Volleyball Club Del Mar, whose Director is….Brennan Dean. Evens admits it was a little strange first coaching against ‘her boss.’
“The first couple of times we played against his team, it was a little hard,” said Evens. “You kind of want to prove yourself but it’s team against team, not me against Brennan. Now, we’re usually very friendly before the game but once play starts it’s about the best team coming out the winner.”
Both teams have senior-heavy rosters with plenty of experience and a bevy of talent that will be playing at the next level in 2020.
Torrey Pines is a good all-around unit whose foundation is superb defense that typically keeps the Falcons free from prolonged scoring runs by the other side. Their diversified offense is directed by slick senior setter Carly Diehl (864 assists). Five hitters have over 100 kills and the senior trio of Delaynie Maple (280), Maya Satchell (261) and Megan Kraft (252) are over 200 apiece. As a team, Torrey has an excellent .313 hitting percentage.
Kraft’s 52 total blocks is the standard for TP’s net play and Maple, who may be the Falcons’ best all-around player and floor general, has a team best 280 digs. Middle blockers Trinity Durfee and Sophia Callahan are solid. Versatile transfer Callahan has become an increasingly useful contributor since becoming eligible.
Kraft (185) and senior libero Cami Appiani (180) are second and third behind Maple in the dig department. The latter also has a team high 75 aces for a team that sports seven players with 20 or more and 302 overall.
“We have tough servers, good passers and a really good defense,” summarized Dean. “Diehl is an exceptional setter and we have the kind of experience that can get us through challenging situations
We’ll need to be on our game in all of those areas to get by Cathedral a third time.”
The word “powerful” comes up often from Evens when the topic is her current Cathedral Catholic roster. The Dons have a monstrous .415 overall hitting percentage and three names dominate the statistics—seniors Maddie Endsley and Lindsey Miller and freshman Julia Blyashov.
Endsley, who is dangerous out of the front or back row, leads in both kills (406) and aces (45) and is frequently the go-to choice in crunch time. Middle blocker Miller, the MVP when Cathedral won the prestigious Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, has registered 226 kills and is far-and-away the dominator in terms of overall blocks with 87. Blyashov has collected 210 kills and 40 aces.
Senior setters Kylie Adams and Teresa Atilano are at the controls of the Dons’ 6-2 offense and both have dished out more than 400 assists on the year. Sophomore Anna Pringle has racked up 219 digs followed by Endsley with 171.
“We’re definitely extremely powerful and good in the middle,” analyzed Evens. “When you’re powerful, you’re usually big, which we are. When you’re big and tall, it usually means you’re not as good defensively. That’s probably true but we’ll hold our own when it comes to that.
“We know what we would have to do to beat Torrey Pines. We need to mix it up and be less predictable on offense, get them out of system with our serving and when they are in system come up with enough defense.”
The two teams have met twice this season, both Torrey Pines wins. The first was a 2-1 triumph at the California Challenge Tournament (Sept. 24). The second came just five days later when Torrey, behind 15-kill effort by Satchell, rolled, 3-1 at Cathedral.
Since Evens took the helm in 2015, Torrey Pines has prevailed in nine of the 10 meetings between the two neighborhood rivals, two of those victories coming in CIF Open Division finals.
The tournament savvy Dean is not placing much importance on the previous two meetings. “Those two wins will mean nothing if we’re fortunate enough to play them again,” said Dean. “That was so long ago. A lot has happened since then. It’s really two different teams now but I know both will be extremely hungry, well-prepared and know how to fight and battle.”
View Across the Net
Tommy Chaffins is in his 19th season as head coach at perennial Southern California girls’ volleyball power Redondo Union. He is not only familiar with Torrey Pines and Cathedral Catholic but his team is one of just two that confronted both in 2019. He shared his take on the potential match-up.
“When those two teams play in the final, and they will, it’s going to be a great match-up,” said Chaffins, whose 35-3 squad lost to Torrey Pines on the road and defeated Cathedral Catholic at home. “There are so many similarities—they have skill players in every position, no weak links, lots of seniors and rosters littered with future college athletes.
“As far as who will win, the boring answer is that whoever passes better is going to win. The coaches know that. They both have good servers and passers—whoever executes best in those areas is your winner.”
The Rest of the Field
While most “experts” are predicting a championship match between Nos.1-2, there are six other teams focused on stopping that eventuality and there is a little outcome known as the upset which has historically played a part of every sport’s history.
“There are plenty of teams that can cause trouble,” said Evens, whose only section losses have come against Torrey Pines. “Most of the teams in the Open bracket have very good players, maybe not as many as we do.
“If you start looking ahead, though, it’s easy to overlook a team that may not have the same top-to-bottom talent but definitely has the capability to win if you’re not ready.”
One team that clearly fits that description is La Costa Canyon, seeded third despite having 13 losses on its resume. Coach Rachel Morris’s Mavericks have already defeated four of the seven other Open Division qualifiers, including a stunning, 3-0, conquest of Torrey Pines in mid-September.
“Everybody that’s earned their way into the Open Division is good,” added Dean. “Several of them have given us trouble—it’s going to be no walk in the park to reach the final.” Bishop’s, Eastlake and La Jolla, ranked Nos. 4-6 respectively fill out the ’19 field.
Let Evens provide the final word on the “would be” championship showdown. “Not beating them and not winning a CIF championship has gotten under our skin a little bit,” admitted Evens. “This year we feel again like we have a great chance.
“Our seven seniors have been here before and know what’s at the end of the rainbow. We definitely expect to be in the finals and we want Torrey Pines to be there. We don’t want anyone else—this is the last chance for these girls.”