No. 1 ranking caps magical year for Falcons
What began in August as just another girls volleyball season at Torrey Pines High ended up being a miracle year no one saw coming.
As expected, the Falcons won the Avocado West League title and followed that with a sixth San Diego Section Open Division championship in the last seven years.
But then came a chapter no previous Falcons team had ever read.
Torrey Pines downed perennial powerhouses Los Angeles Marymount and Santa Ana Mater Dei to reach the Open Division state championship, taking on Kentfield Marin Catholic.
On Saturday, Nov. 23, the Falcons swept aside Marin Catholic for the school’s first state title in volleyball and the first state Open Division crown by a San Diego team.
For that accomplishment, the MaxPreps website declared Torrey Pines its national champion on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
“I didn’t think they would move us all the way to the top,” Falcons coach Brennan Dean said. “It wound up being a pretty good year.
“We hit a lot of our goals.
“The girls deserve every ounce of credit for this.”
Torrey Pines finished 39-2 with a 23-match winning streak. In the final poll, the Falcons edged Byron Nelson of Trophy Club, Texas; New Castle in Indiana; Benet Academy of Lisle, Ill.; and Green Hope of Cary, N.C.
“I’ve heard from almost every ex-player today,” Dean said. “I feel happy for them and the coaches (Lars) Trupe, Jim Harrah and all those past players.
“But this award is mainly for these 19 players this year.”
Volleyball magazine also deemed the Falcons national champions, matching the feat of the undefeated Bonita Vista team of 2000.
“This group has surprised us all,” Dean said. “No one, and that includes me, would have ever guessed this was the group that would do all this. No one.
“The talent on this team is distributed but is not overwhelming.
“Now that we’ve seen what this team can do, maybe it just played better than any other previous Torrey team.”
As if anyone needed more evidence, the Falcons defeated Redondo Union (ranked No. 9 in the final MaxPreps poll), Mater Dei (No. 10), Marymount (No. 13), San Diego Section Open Division runner-up Cathedral Catholic (No. 14) three times this season and Marin Catholic (No. 20).
“We beat Cathedral to win the section and now we get Marymount,” senior setter Carly Diehl said. “They knocked us out last year and we get Mater Dei, which knocked us out two years ago.
“To be the first (Falcons) team to win state in volleyball is very, very cool.
“Our goals were to win league, win CIF and win state. Anything after that is a bonus.”
Diehl, like Dean and the other 18 teammates, was home on vacation when the national championship news came out.
Needless to say, the honor was a little overwhelming.
“We did what we set out to do until this,” Diehl said. “I’m sitting at home and I can’t believe it.
“Everyone has been texting all day. No one can believe what we just did.
“None of this makes any sense. If we were (San Jose Archbishop) Mitty with 14 state titles, you could see how winning a national title would be possible.”
But Torrey Pines had no state titles and had not even been to the state finals since losing to Mitty in 2001.
This year’s Falcons used the team concept to reach for the stars.
Six players finished with more than 100 kills for the season, led by senior Delaynie Maple with 345.
Senior Maya Satchell had 319 kills followed by Megan Kraft with 299, senior Trinity Durfee with 151, junior Sophia Callahan with 187 and even Diehl had 118 kills.
The Falcons also survived a leaky roof at their gym against Mater Dei that forced the regional finals to be shifted down the street to Canyon Crest.
“We trailed 12-15 in the second set, lost the first two points when we resumed and there was no way I could see us coming back against Mater Dei,” Dean said. “Most teams wouldn’t have, but this team is able to keep going no matter what is going on around them.”
The only two losses this year were to rival La Costa Canyon and state Division I champion Vista Murrieta.
“We have great short-term memory,” Diehl said. “The banquet next week is going to be awesome.”
— Terry Monahan is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union Tribune