First published in the Nov. 18 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
By Nathan Cambridge / The Outlook
All season, the Mayfield Senior School girls’ volleyball team had not suffered a defeat at home. If the Cubs could maintain their unblemished record against visiting El Camino Real of Woodland Hills, a berth in the CIF-State Southern Regional Division III final would be the prize.
Against the Royals, the Cubs once again successfully defended their home court, going the distance for a 25-20, 18-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-9 victory in their regional semifinal Saturday to keep their season alive.
“This team has been undefeated all year in this gym, so that was a great confidence boost going into that fifth set,” Mayfield coach Hugo Ayala said after the win.
Mayfield improved its overall record to 33-11 and played fifth-seeded Chino Hills in the regional final. The result was too late for The Outlook’s deadline.
The Cubs alternated winning games against El Camino Real (29-12 record), with Mayfield victorious in games one and three. Game five was a race to 15 points, which was reduced to a race to nine when Cub Annelise Rising smashed a kill that found the back corner of court to tie the game at 6-6.
The No. 6-seeded Cubs then reeled off the next five points. It started with Amelia Velasquez putting the hosts up, for what turned out to be for good, with a kill from the outside. Kayla Bandow then converted a kill from down the line. Next, Rising dropped in an ace, followed by a mistake by El Camino Real. After Mayfield scored one more, the lead had jumped to 11-6.
Soon after, on its second match point, Mayfield put away the No. 10-seeded Royals with an emphatic kill from the back row by Rising.
“That was so amazing,” Rising said. “It was a lot of pressure, but I am so glad I did it and we were able to take the win.”
Rising was the hardest hitter on either side of the court and El Camino Real’s kryptonite. The junior finished with a whopping 31 kills, with nine of them coming up the middle from a position in the back row. Rising also had 12 digs.
“This year I wanted to get better at [hitting from the back row] because I had never really done it,” Rising said. “We’ve worked on that a lot.”
Bandow, a sophomore, contributed 10 kills. Freshman middle blocker Audrey Nuckols had seven kills and registered a team-high five blocks.
Mayfield sophomore setter Holly Hillman recorded 42 assists, 11 digs and three aces. Libero Maddie Kaufman led a solid defensive effort with 35 digs.
“We lost in the [CIF-Southern Section Division V] semifinals, so it’s so great to have another chance to make a big run,” Kaufman said. “I’m proud of everyone on the team.”
The Cubs scored the first three points of the opening game, starting with a kill from the outside by Rising, and would never trail. El Camino Real tied the game at 16, but the Cubs responded with two consecutive kills from the outside by Rising. The visitors made some mistakes down the stretch, allowing Bandow to finish the game with a kill that landed deep in the Royals’ side of the court.
El Camino Real blitzed Mayfield to open game two, scoring the first seven points. The Royals never trailed and built a lead as big as 11 points before taking the game by seven to even things up.
Game three was tied at 5-5, but Mayfield pulled ahead and slowly stoked its advantage. The lead reached its largest at nine points for the first time following a kill by Kelsey Babcock. On game point number three, Bandow finished it with a kill from the outside, careening off the Royals’ block.
Game four was tied as late as 18-18, but El Camino Real pulled ahead and scored the final four points to set up the deciding fifth game.
SAN DIEGO POWER
For the first time in school history, Mayfield advanced past the second round of the Division III state tournament by defeating No. 3 southern seed San Diego Francis Parker, 24-26, 25-21, 25-18, 25-20 win last Thursday. It was the Cubs’ fifth state playoff victory since the school was founded in 1931.
Junior outside hitter Annelise Rising tallied 29 kills and seven digs while Holly Hillman had 41 assists. Freshman middle blocker Audrey Nuckols had eight kills and four blocks and senior libero Maddie Kaufman had 20 digs.
Mayfield swept 11th-seeded Kerman High, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21, in the first round on Nov. 9.
Rising recorded a team-high 21 kills and seven digs while Kaufman had a team-leading 18 digs.
Sophomore outside hitter Kayla Bandow added 10 kills and eight digs while Nuckols tallied nine kills and four blocks.