First published in the Nov. 18 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
La Salle College Preparatory varsity girls’ volleyball team lost to host fourth-seeded Eastlake High in four sets, 22-25, 14-25, 25-20, 21-25, in the first round of the CIF Division I state playoffs on Tuesday, Nov. 9. It was the Lancers’ first state playoff appearance since 2017 and first under fourth-year head coach Shari Iwatani.
Despite the loss, La Salle ended another terrific season, finishing with a 22-4 record after capturing the Del Rey League title during the regular season.
“It was really amazing,” Iwatani said, referencing the Lancers’ success. “It’s tremendous. I came in this year not knowing what we were going to have, what the season was going to look like, and I really built the team in mind with having Ashley [Li] and Dani [Thomas-Nathan] be our go-to hitters.”
Thomas-Nathan, who has committed to USC, led the Lancers with 23 kills, two aces, three digs, two assisted blocks and one assist. Meanwhile, teammate Mikayla Hsieh had 35 assists, four kills, fours digs and one assisted block.
“[Thomas-Nathan] really stepped up. I don’t think she necessarily wanted her season to end and did anything possible to try and keep that going and alive,” Iwatani said. “We worked hard making [Hsieh] an offensive setter as much as possible … which became really important throughout the season in making sure that she was an offensive threat for us.”
Li, who signed a letter of intent to play at the University of California, Berkeley, also played well with 13 kills, two aces, three digs and one assisted block.
Hailey Patino logged four assists, four digs, one kill and one ace, while Ava Alvarado recorded two aces and one dig. Avery Ward had four kills and Carhin Guillen tallied two kills and one assisted block.
Defensively, Holly Rettig had two assisted blocks and one solo block while Bella Marrero recorded one dig.
“I’m eager to get back next season and see where it’s going to take us. I think we have a lot of good pieces still,” Iwatani said. “Granted, we’ll miss Dani, of course, but hopefully the other underclassmen will step up and we’ll have another memorable season.”
The Lancers will open 2022 seeking their first CIF title since 2013.
La Salle utilized its powerhouse roster en route to the league title led by Thomas-Nathan, who recorded team-highs in kills (481), aces (70) and digs (155). She also added 15 blocks and four assists.
Li maintained pace with her USC committee teammate, tallying 435 kills, 54 aces, 117 digs, 22 blocks and six assists.
As the Lancers’ offensive setter, Hsieh recorded a team-high 863 assists with 154 digs, 51 aces, 34 kills and 37 blocks.
Ward, who had a team-high 35 blocks, 107 kills, eight digs and two assists, will look to build on her strong performance, which Iwatani said she is excited to see.
“[Ward] came in super raw, jumps really well, touches like 9’7” but has only had a year of volleyball under her belt and that year being kind of a COVID year,” Iwatani said. “She’s progressed tremendously in the short high school season and I think she’s only going to get better with more experience, so I am really eager to see what she is going to be able to bring and contribute next season for us.”
Patino had 141 digs while adding 58 aces, 61 assists and seven kills and teammate Marrero had 88 digs, 43 aces, 20 assists and three kills.
Alvarado recorded 30 aces, 38 digs, one kill and two assists, Rettig had 35 kills, 34 blocks, seven aces and seven digs, and Guillen tallied 34 blocks, 22 kills, five digs, two assists and one ace.
Cassie Beltre recorded four aces, five kills and two digs, Isabella Wallace had one ace, three kills and one dig, Isabel Perez tallied one block, and Georgia Longhurst and Audrey Chen each had one assist.
The Lancers will bid farewell to seniors Beltre, Guillen, Patino and Thomas-Nathan while expecting their underclasswomen to continue to improve in hopes of advancing deep into the 2022 postseason.