Girls VB: Branson goes for five-peat

After a three set sweep in the D5 NorCal title match, the Branson girls volleyball team will try to break the tie they have with three other schools of four straight CIF state volleyball championships.

With the better part of the 320 member student body of top-seeded Branson (Ross) cheering on the four-time defending CIF Division V state champion girls volleyball team Tuesday night at College of Marin in Kentfield, the Bulls swept a very game St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 25-16, 25-16, 25-20 to win a record fifth straight NorCal title.

The picture of former Branson boys basketball star Oliver McNally in the last published Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book has a grinning McNally holding up three fingers to symbolize the three-peat Branson had when between 2006-2008 the Bulls boys won three-straight CIF Division V state championships.

With the win over St. Joseph Notre Dame, Branson (35-6) now moves into unchartered waters. The four-straight CIF state titles has them tied with Los Angeles Marymount, Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach and St. Francis of Mountain View.

Branson, on the other hand, will now go for a record fifth-straight CIF championship when they face La Jolla Country Day (San Diego) in the D5 state championship match on Saturday morning at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.

“We’ve got a couple of days to get a little better and prepared to play our biggest match of the season,” said fifth-year head coach Michelle Brazil.

La Jolla Country Day (23-12) will certainly be the toughest opponent Branson has faced since the tough tournament schedule Brazil put the girls through early in the season. The surprising No. 2 seed Torreys had no problem with top-seeded O’Neal’s Minarets in a 25-12, 25-13, 25-7 victory.

Each has two common opponents, Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach and San Diego Cathedral Catholic and each lost to Mira Costa 2-1 and took 2-1 victories from Cathedral Catholic. Branson played a much tougher tournament schedule and all its losses are to larger schools. Country Day didnt play in as many tournaments, but their league included San Diego Francis Parker, and the Torreys lost twice to the SoCal Division IV winner that will play for a state championship on Saturday as well.

“Any time you see tough competiton like we faced it really helps. At this stage of the season I’m patting myself on the back for taking us to those tough tournaments,” said Brazil, who is guiding Branson while seven months pregnant with her first child.

What it will take to defeat a two-time state champion in Country Day was not lost by Brazil or the team’s two top players.

“We’re going to go into this match with the same fire and intensity we’ve had all season,” said setter Maddy Schoenberger. The 6-foot sophomore had 29 sets, six kills and three blocks on Tuesday night.

“Its definitely going to take our best effort coupled with being mentally prepared,” 5-10 senior outside hitter Sarah Wallace remarked. She had 15 kills and two blocks against St. Joseph Notre Dame.

When asked what the two keys were to beating the experience girls from San Diego Brazil didnt hesitate. “Stay poised under pressure and limit the unforced errors.”

If the young Branson team can produce one more victory they’ll sail back from unchartered water with a five-peat and a significant accopmplishem for the tiny scholl from Ross.

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