Palisades of Pacific and Granada Hills have two of the City Section’s most decorated girls’ volleyball programs. The Dolphins have won 25 titles since 1974. The Highlanders have won four championships since 2009.
The confrontation on Saturday, Nov. 22, was also the third straight meeting in the Division I final for the teams. Palisades won in 2012, and Granada Hills in 2013. And now the Dolphins are back in charge after knocking off the Highlanders 20-25, 25-21, 25-22 and 25-20.
The scores were relatively close. And if the teams played 10 matches, they would probably each win five. But on this day Palisades (27-10), the third seed, was more adept at getting the critical defensive stop when it was most needed. Granda Hills (21-8), the top seed, got 10 kills each from Rachel Kayongo and Sarah Hagge but could never put together the kind of will-sapping run of points that would make Palisades wilt under the pressure.
“I thought they played outstanding defense against us,” Granada Hills Coach Tom Harp said. “They got a lot of balls (back in play), and that turned a lot of points around.
“Their ball control has really improved since the first time we played (back in September). My hat’s off to them…Palisades is the standard bearer of the girls’ section. You’ve got to beat them to win it. But I can’t find much fault with how we played. So I’m not upset; Palisades earned it.”
Besides the first game, Granada Hills’ best chance to get control of the match came in Game Three. The Dolphins were holding on to a 19-13 lead, but the Highlanders rallied to even the score at 20. Hagge was looking to put Granada Hills in front, but her serve went into the net. Palisades then won five of the next seven points to take charge. They used a similar rush in Game Four, winning six of the final seven points, to win the championship.
“In Game One we had a lot of unforced errors. But after that we started to play cleaner,” Palisades Coach Carlos Gray said. “We stopped giving away free points, and our defense was very important.
“And we didn’t give away Game Three because we have worked so much this year on responding to adversity. That came into play tonight.”
Harp said about half of this year’s team will return in 2015. Should they make it back to
the final, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Palisades again staring back from the other side of the net.