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It wasn’t one but two wake up calls that state No. 1 girls volleyball team Archbishop Mitty of San Jose had to deal with in winning the top division of Saturday’s Stockton Classic held at Delta College.
First, the Monarchs literally had to wake up after a pre-dawn bus ride from San Jose and playing in their first match that began at 8:30 a.m. They had a 25-22 game in that first match against St. Francis of Sacramento and then had trouble with Pitman of Turlock, one of the top teams in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, winning in two games but both by razor-thin margins of 25-22 and 27-25.
Then, after an easier time in the semifinals over Christian Brothers of Sacramento, Mitty found itself facing a 12-7 deficit in the deciding third game of a spirited championship match against West Catholic Athletic League rival Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.
That’s when the Monarchs (25-3) picked up their game, scoring eight straight points and came back for a 15-12 win. Sacred Heart Cathedral guaranteed that if Mitty was going to win that it would have to be in a third game because it won the first game 26-24 and was in striking distance in the second game before the Monarchs won 25-21.
“We just needed to focus on the next point and keep our energy up,” said Mitty junior outside hitter Kamrin Caoili, who was named the tourney’s MVP. “It does help confidence a little bit when we know it’s a team we’ve beaten before, but it shouldn’t matter if we’ve played someone a million times.”
“In those moments, you just can’t give up,” said Mitty’s other all-tourney player, 6-foot-2 middle blocker Candice Denny. “To me, it’s easier to play when they’re close matches.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral (19-6) came into the day still suffering from an upset league loss to St. Francis of Mountain View from earlier in the week, but reached the finals with wins over Marin Catholic of Kentfield, Notre Dame of Belmont and Redwood of Larkspur. Notre Dame entered the day at No. 2 in the Northern California behind Mitty and was No. 6 in the state.
“Our goal today was actually just to get better,” said Fighting Irish head coach Margi Beima. “Oh my gosh, what we worked on was so much better than the last time we played them (in which Mitty won three straight games).”
The fact that two WCAL teams made it into the Stockton Classic’s top division final was not a surprise, but the Irish were not the WCAL team that Mitty head coach Bret Almazan-Cezar was expecting to play.
“There were a lot of others we expected, but they went on an incredible run,” Almazan-Cezar said. “They are coached so well and put defenders in the right places. That can cause frustration for us.”
Two other state-ranked WCAL teams that didn’t get to the semifinals were No. 9 St. Ignatius of San Francisco and No. 18 Valley Christian of San Jose.
St. Ignatius, which lost in a WCAL match earlier last week to Mitty, dropped its first match of the day to Redwood but came back to win three straight, including a 2-0 sweep of Valley Christian for the consolation title.
Valley Christian also lost in its first match of the day to Christian Brothers of Sacramento. The Warriors then beat one of the CIF North Coast Section Division I title favorites, Monte Vista of Danville, before eventually losing to the Wildcats.
Christian Brothers then continued its big day with an upset of El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge in the quarterfinals. Oak Ridge had risen to No. 13 in last week’s state rankings and is the favorite in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
One parent was overheard before the Falcons were getting ready to play the No. 1 team in the state in the semifinals: “I got a call and was told to get in the car and start driving. We’re playing Mitty.”
While the Falcons (18-5) had a hard time in that match, head coach James Todd was very happy afterward.
“I feel like we played our best of the year to beat Valley Christian and Oak Ridge,” he said. “Mitty was just way too big and way too good for us to keep it up. Our whole reason for coming here was just to get ready for sections (Sac-Joaquin Division III) and I think we are.”
In the second-toughest bracket of the Stockton Classic, which included 79 teams in all at locations throughout the area, Buchanan of Clovis (24-5) ventured up from the CIF Central Section and defeated Miramonte of Orinda in straight sets to win the title. The Bears won in earlier matches against Soquel, host Lincoln of Stockton and Granite Bay.