Monarchs win their first tourney trophy of the year by topping Marin Catholic in title match that may be a preview of CIF NorCal Open Division final. There were some anxious moments in the first game, but after that the Wildcats lost some energy in the second game. St. Ignatius & Monte Vista of Danville were two other State Top 20 teams that were in the top bracket.
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It’s an annual trip for the nationally renowned Archbishop Mitty of San Jose girls volleyball team to play in the Stockton Classic. The top bracket isn’t always at Lincoln High of Stockton, but when it is it’s also a homecoming of sorts for Mitty head coach Bret Almazan-Cezar, who came to Mitty after building a successful program at Lincoln.
But the main reason the Monarchs play in the Stockton Classic each year has more to do with the CIF Northern California playoffs.
“It’s to play and see the best teams from the NCS (North Coast Section) and the Sac-Joaquin,” said Almazan-Cezar after the Monarchs topped Marin Catholic of the NCS in this year’s Stockton Classic final. “These are teams we may play again in NorCals.”
Marin Catholic was one of those teams last year in Mitty’s march to the CIF Open Division state title (the 10th that the school has won under Almazan-Cesar) as the Monarchs topped the Wildcats in the NorCal Open Division semifinals before beating league rival St. Ignatius of San Francisco in the NorCal Open finals.
The possibility of Marin Catholic getting a win in the Stockton Classic final and thereby owning a head-to-head win over the Monarchs for the NorCal Open Division seedings also was not lost on Almazan-Cezar or his players.
“I think they had an inkling of what could happen later on if we lost,” the coach said. “They have a great player in No. 7 (sophomore Kari Geissberger) and they’re a well-coached team. They’ll be there somewhere at the end.”
St. Ignatius also was in the Stockton Classic and gave Marin Catholic all it could handle in the semifinals. St. Ignatius took the first game of the match 28-26 after opening strong with a 6-1 run. Marin Catholic won the second game 25-21, which set the stage for a third game. St. Ignatius was leading 6-5 until Marin Catholic began to take control and eventually won the deciding game 15-10.
“We had a game plan and were just not doing a good job when we were down,” said MC head coach Jake Spain. “We just did a better job later on.”
Marin Catholic also continued to play well in the first game of the match against Mitty. The Wildcats were up by as much as 11-7 and had a game point against the Monarchs at 25-24 before Mitty won three straight points to take the game 27-25.
A kill by senior standout Kamrin Caoili ended it. She later learned after the match that she had gotten her 1,000th career kill and had nine kills in all. Fellow senior Julia Devine led the Monarchs with 10 kills.
Almazan-Cezar added that the absence of 5-foot-10 senior Nicole Liddle for his team was due to her being on a recruiting trip.
“We just want to play teams who can help us elevate our game,” Spain said. “We have a lot of girls who’ve been with us four years and we have some stronger younger players. We have lost the last three years in the NorCals on the road and don’t really want to do that again.”
Geissberger, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, is one of those younger players. Marin Catholic also was led in its last two matches in Stockton by junior setter Leah Pease, the daughter of former Redwood (Larkspur) head coach Katie Pease, and 6-foor-2 Riley Ramsey, the returning Marin County Athletic League Player of the Year.
If Marin Catholic were to play St. Ignatius again in the NorCals, then winning the match on Saturday may ensure that that match would be in Kentfield. If it’s Mitty, however, then as usual all roads may go through San Jose.
Note: Previous state No. 17 Monte Vista of Danville also was in the Stockton Classic event, but lost in its first match on Saturday morning to Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove. The Mustangs came back to win the rest of their matches, but that loss ended up knocking them out of this week’s State Top 20 rankings. Pleasant Grove later lost in a match to St. Francis of Sacramento, which then lost to Mitty in a semifinal match opposite Marin Catholic-St. Ignatius.