It was senior night for the Bishop Diego girls volleyball team, but that didn’t stop Laguna Blanca from rolling into the Cardinals home gym and handing them a three-set loss with scores of 25-19, 25-15, 25-23.
“It was really emotional for me, especially at the beginning because I have been playing here for four years. Going into it I was sad, but having all the energy from the crowd and from my teammates made it better, regardless of the loss,” senior libero Julia Gregson said.
“We put up a fight and gave it our best shot.”
With the win, Laguna Blanca (16-4, 9-0) clinched its first Frontier League title.
“This is a team that genuinely cares about each other on and off the court and we know we don’t have to play perfectly to compete at a high level but tonight it was really nice to see them play well and together with this amazing crowd,” Laguna Blanca coach Jason Donnelly said.
Despite it being a road match for the Owls, there were plenty of fans in attendance cheering them on.
“We really rallied everyone at our assemblies to try and come because this was for a league title and I am glad they showed up because they gave amazing support. It is my senior year so it really is an exciting time and it feels great to be league champs,” senior Ainsly McGovern said.
McGovern and Macy Christal each tallied 10 kills on the night to lead the Owls to the victory.
In the first set, the two teams were trading scores for a while, until, at 9-9, Laguna Blanca went on an 8-0 run behind two aces from sophomore Frances Carlson and a pair of kills from Christal.
The Owls would eventually take a 22-13 lead, but a 4-0 spurt from the Cardinals kept them in it a bit longer.
At 24-19, a service error by Bishop Diego would seal the set for Laguna Blanca.
The second set followed much of the same pattern as it was tied for the majority. At 10-10, the Owls scored eight of the next 12 points to be up 18-14, then use a 5-0 run to take a 23-14 lead.
After an attack error by Laguna Blanca, kills from Natalie McCaffrey and Christal would put their team up 2-0.
In the third set, the Cardinals found a renewed sense of energy.
Despite conceding the first two points, Bishop Diego rallied to score nine of the next 11 points and take a 9-4 lead. Kills from Siena Urzua and Gregson were instrumental.
Urzua led Bishop Diego in kills and digs with six and 17, respectively.
From there, the Cardinals always kept a comfortable lead, at one point holding a 20-16 advantage. A service error, then a kill from Paige Levinson brought the Owls within two.
Up 21-19, Bishop Diego again committed a service error. Laguna Blanca then got a kill from McGovern and an ace from Annie Gabler, who led the team with 36 assists, to tie the match at 21.
Up a point, Bishop Diego looked like they were going to score an ace, but somehow, Laguna Blanca’s Christal kept it alive, then another player shot it over the net backward just to keep it alive. The ball somehow found the floor tying the match.
The Owls then took the next two points to be up 24-22. After a field block by the Cardinals made it a one-point game again, McGovern finally put the match away with a powerful kill to the left corner that bounced off a Cardinals player and into the stands.
“I was trying to hit off the outside blocker’s hand which really helped and I really aimed for the corner the whole night and got it there at the end,” McGovern said.
Now that Laguna Blanca has clinched the Frontier League, the team will look ahead.
The Owls have a pair of games left, one league and one non-league, but ultimately the goal is what could be done in the postseason.
The same could be said for the Cardinals.
Even despite not having a chance to win league anymore, a second-place finish could still be enough for Bishop Diego to host in the first round of the postseason, an opportunity that excites Gregson; A chance to play another final home game with her “Family.”
“Getting second is our new goal. We have a game against Villanova and we have worked hard to prepare for them. We have grown as a team from the beginning. We have come a long way,” Gregson said.
“I love every single girl on my team. They are my family, and that is what I am going to take away from my four years at Bishop, that team mentality of being like a family.”
Laguna Blanca will play at Santa Clara at 6 p.m. on Tuesday while Bishop Diego will face Villanova at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.