The ball skied high and wide, threatening to fall to earth out of bounds, as Mira Costa women’s volleyball junior Chloe Hynes stood to her left.
With a single blow, Hynes pushed herself onto the scorer’s table, reached out and put the dying dig back into play. It seemed impossible. The visiting crowd at Mater Dei’s gymnasium exploded, a triumphant shower of admiration for a gritty play.
The party lasted a fraction of a second. A Mater Dei hitter casually slammed a low return for a run. The backup did nothing.
Thursday night should have been an exciting matchup between the titans, an early-season clash between two of California’s top women’s volleyball programs. But the Mustangs have seated three of their best players. Grit could only take them so far after a first-set win, and Mater Dei stabilized a crushing block in the following sets for a fairly easy 3-1 victory (23-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-21) .
“When we see them later in the season,” Monarchs coach Dan O’Dell said, “they’re going to be a very, very different team and a stronger team.”
Drew Wright, Mira Costa’s winning leader last season, was on the sidelines in a black warm-up shirt and track pants. Charlie Fuerbringer, one of the best passers in the country, was there too, as was transfer Tanon Rosenthal.
All three, along with Georgia Walker and Emilia Kupiec, were benched by coach Cam Green after a violation of team policy. Green declined to name the exact circumstances of the violation, noting it would only be for one game and the team was handling it well.
“It wasn’t that easy to do,” Green said of the band reuniting, “but we set a precedent.”
His team still expected to compete, Green said, and competed stealing the first set. But the momentum changed immediately in the second, Mira Costa just couldn’t get a ball on Mater Dei’s block despite Hynes’ best efforts, and late returns throughout the night failed.
“Blocking is going to be one of our huge strengths – we’ve got a lot of size in our hitters right now,” O’Dell said. “We should block a ton of balls.”
Senior middle tackle Preston Johnson led the way with seven blocks. Junior outside hitter Izzy Clark – holding her wrist like she just hit a three-pointer after a hard shot – had nine kills, as did junior Babi Gubbins.
But the Monarchs knew they weren’t playing their best. Everyone was up and down, O’Dell said, moving his hand like a roller coaster.
Not quite the Southern Section playoff preview it might have been, with the early-season flaws and missing faces.
“I would like to play them again with their owners, Charlie and Drew,” Clark said of Mira Costa.
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