Cathedral Catholic outlasts Torrey Pines in battle between girls volleyball titans

Torrey Pines' Finley Krystkowiak hits the ball past Cathedral Catholic's Jenna Hanes, left, and Madyson McCarthy
Torrey Pines’ Finley Krystkowiak hits the ball past Cathedral Catholic’s Jenna Hanes, left, and Madyson McCarthy during the fourth game in Wednesday’s match.
(Hayne Palmour IV/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Dons rally from 2-set deficit to win 3-2, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 15-9 in a match that lasts 2 hours and 22 minutes


Brennan Dean didn’t sugarcoat the task facing his No. 2-ranked Torrey Pines High volleyball team. Across the net Wednesday night in the Falcons’ gym stood Cathedral Catholic, the No. 1-ranked team in the section, the eighth-ranked team in the nation.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match for Torrey Pines,” said Dean.

Cathedral is coming off a once-in-a-lifetime season, the Dons losing just one set last season on its way to a 42-0 season. Cathedral won a state championship and was named the No. 1 team in the nation by MaxPreps.

Compounding Torrey’s challenge, Cathedral had played nine matches while Torrey had only played two.

But Dean liked his team’s chances.

“We try to teach our athletes to get in uncomfortable situations, then you can be comfortable in them,” said Dean. “We’re really fine walking into this uphill battle for us.”

Torrey nearly pulled off the upset but then Cathedral rallied from down two sets to one to win 3-2, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 15-9 in a match that lasted 2 hours and 22 minutes.

Torrey sophomore Finley Krystkowiak and Cathedral’s Michigan-bound senior Jenna Hanes dominated at the net, both finishing with 25 kills.

Cathedral improved to 8-2. Torrey Pines dropped to 2-1.

Cathedral Catholic coach Juliana Conn talks to her players during a timeout.
(Hayne Palmour IV/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Cathedral was down two sets to one and 15-10 in the fourth set before rallying to win.

Torrey closed the first set strong, scoring five of the last eight points in the 25-21. The game winner came when Cathedral’s Madyson McCarthy put an attempted kill into the net.

Cathedral rallied to take the second set 25-20, led by Hanes. The 6-foot-2 Hanes pounded eight kills. The set ended fitting when the Falcons tried to block one of Hanes’ smashes only for the ball to carom out of bounds.

The third set, a 25-23 Torrey win, was a thriller. Cathedral led by five points, 10-5, only for the Falcons to score five straight points. Torrey jumped to a 22-18 advantage only for Cathedral to tie the set at 23. Torrey closed out the set with two straight points, the decider coming on a kill at the middle of the net by Avery Merso.

In the fourth set, it looked like Torrey would pull off the upset, leading 15-10 and 19-15 but Cathedral wouldn’t fold, winning 10 of the last 13 points to take the set, 25-22.

Cathedral Catholic's Madyson McCarthy hits past Torrey Pines' Emery Gonzales, left, and Sara Dahl
Cathedral Catholic’s Madyson McCarthy hits the ball as Torrey Pines’ Emery Gonzales, left, and Sara Dahl try to block during the first game.
(Hayne Palmour IV/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Torrey Pines and Cathedral have been the measuring sticks for the rest of the section for a decade. Since the Open Division began in 2013, either the Falcons or Dons have won the title eight times.

The Falcons won the Open title six of the first seven years. Cathedral claimed the Open Division the past two years.

And the two programs, just 1.9 miles apart on Del Mar Heights Road, are very familiar with one another. Both teams have multiple players on the two most prominent local clubs, the Wave and Coast.

Joked Dean: “There’s a lot of cross-contamination. They’re good friends on the club level, then enjoy going at it at the high-school level.”

Cathedral dominated last year’s three matches, failing to lose a set. Torrey scored 14 points or less in five of the nine games.

The last San Diego Section team to beat Cathedral was San Marcos, 3-1, in the Dons’ opening match of the 2021 season.