By Pat Turner
District 28-6A’s four playoff positions have been determined going into the final match of the season.
However, something still needs to be finalized. While Clark (42-3, 17-0) claimed the title this past week second place is still up for grabs between O’Connor (35-11, 13-4), Brandeis (30-4. 13-4) and Warren (23-19, 13-4).
That situation occurred this past Tuesday when Clark wrapped up its title with a 3-0 win over O’Connor and Warren squeezed out a 3-2 victory over Brandeis.
All three teams won their Friday matches, making Tuesday’s regular season finale highly important.
O’Connor plays Stevens, Brandeis plays Taft and Warren takes on Clark.
The three teams sharing second place had their ups and downs throughout district play, but they braved through the ordeal with clutch victories.
Clark avoided that scenario by running the table with the only close calls coming in a 3-2 win over Brandeis and a 3-1 victory over Brennan.
The Cougars have received well-rounded play from several players. Though being at the top of the class has brought more pressure, they found ways to handle it.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Clark coach Melissa Miller said. “We had a lot of kids who weren’t on the court last year, but this group has this trust in each other that you can’t coach. I think it comes because we had a good corps returning from last year. They just play for each other. They’re here for the same reason and enjoy playing for each other. Hopefully, we’ll keep it going as long as we can.”
O’Connor owned a 12-9 lead in the first set after Lexi Davila, Bryshanna Brown and Kali Nelson came up with timely hits.
Clark remained calm and gradually moved into a 20-18 lead with kills from Kara McGhee, Taylor McDonough and Grace Gibson.
That boost paved the way for Clark to finish with a 25-20 win.
Clark took charge quickly in the second game. Ashley Hu, who had 21 assists to go with 22 digs, kept the offense running with her passes to Kara McGhee, Elise McGhee, Shadee Briggs, Gibson and McDonough for a 25-17 win.
Clark wrapped up the match in three sets, but the Cougars had to hold off a late O’Connor rally to make it complete.
Clark was cruising with a 21-12 advantage, but the momentum shifted quickly. Terez and Marina De La Rosa’s assists to Gabby De Los Santos, Sunnie Ozment and Kali Nelson led to kills. De La Rosa also stunned the Cougars with an ace and a block by De Los Santos brought O’Connor within 24-22.
However, Kara McGhee ended O’Connor’s hopes with a match-clinching kill.
Battling through challenges has been a strength for Clark all season.
“It’s been amazing being here,” McDonough said. “We have such good chemistry on and off the court. We talk to each other on the court. It’s nice we can rely on each other. I’ve been in kind of a lull the last couple of weeks, but they (teammates) brought me back and motivated me. We play for each other.”
Brandeis gained a second-place tie with a 3-2 win over O’Connor the previous week and was looking to establish sole possession of the spot. Warren, however, had other ideas.
Loimata Tufuno (13 kills, 30 digs) and Camryn Anderson were keys to Warren’s success. The Warriors also shined on defense and in the serving department where Anderson, Amaya Eiley and Analise Espinoza totaled six aces.
That’s the reason the match went the distance. Warren bolted to a 25-20 lead and Brandeis evened things up with a 25-21 victory. After the Warriors gained a 2-1 edge with a 25-19 win, Brandeis forced a fifth set with a 25-18 win.
Then came the finale. Neither team could get the upper hand until Warren used kills from Smalls and Gibson to gain a 20-18 win.
Brandeis got back into the win column with a sweep of Jay and Warren topped Marshall, 3-0.
O’Connor also took a big rebound in pulling out a 3-1 win over Brennan.
The Panthers started strong as Thomas, De Los Santos and Davila sparked a 25-15 win in the first game.
The Bears (23-18, 10-7) relied on Kayla Lofland, Ahzi Coleman, Lexi Williams and Gabby Arredondo to run to a 25-19 win in game two. Brennan, which began its week with a 3-0 win over Stevens, was unable to keep the pace as O’Connor finished with 25-18, 25-15 wins.
Harlan (27-12, 15-0) clinched the District 28-5A title a week ago and looks to finish league play with a perfect record in Tuesday’s finale with Southwest Legacy.
Harlan kept its winning ways intact with a 3-0 win over Southwest this past Tuesday.
During the 25-23, 25-15, 26-24 wins, the Hawks received pressure from the Dragons throughout the match. However, Ayanna Jackson, Arissa Willis, Julie Arguijo and Iliziah Martinez came up with big plays go give Harlan the advantage.
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