The Redondo Union girls’ volleyball team completed its mission of winning CIF Southern Section with a four-game match victory against rival Mater Dei 25-19, 25-16, 16-25, 25-21 in the Division 1 championship held at Cerritos College last Saturday.
They can finally say they are CIF champions.
“It sounds awesome—it is pretty surreal to achieve it,” said Redondo Union’s Kami Miner. “Being a junior now and being here for three years, it is awesome to be able to accomplish that goal and make it all the way.”
Miner set up her teammates for big hits finishing with 44 assists.
Four-year starter and captain Nalani Iosia got her first opportunity in three years to play in the final.
“This is very relieving especially since it is my senior year,” Iosia said. “We have been going after this for the past four years. I’m just really proud of my team and how far we’ve come. It is just satisfying how we have finally accomplished our goal of winning CIF.”
Head coach Tom Chaffins is thrilled for his team, which improved to 38-3 overall.
"Jubilation went through my mind when we won,” Chaffins said. “I know how hard the girls have worked all year, and frankly their whole lives to put us in a position to win like a match like that. To win a CIF-Southern Section in the highest division is a rare occurrence for any school in any sport."
Redondo Union’s Mele Corral-Blagojevich closed out the match for the Sea Hawks.
"I like defense and grit,” Chaffins said. “So the last point, Nalani dug a rocket by Mater Dei's best outside hitter, a rally ensued, then freshman-our freshman-Mele put the ball down, her 15th kill of the night for the match winner."
She also had 14 digs, which was second on the team to Iosia, who had 18.
Corral-Blagojevich and Jody Smith both had a match-high 15 kills to lead Redondo Union. Laila Ricks added nine.
It started as a stressful match but winning made it all worthwhile, especially for the seniors on the team.
“It was really emotional, especially on Saturday night,” Iosia said. “It was one of our last times playing together. Every time we step out on the court we know to give it our all because it could be our last practice, our last time playing with each other. Just getting to play with these girls is just such an honorable thing to do.”
Jesse Szymanski, junior middle blocker for Redondo Union was happy for the seniors.
“I’m super excited, we mainly did it for our seniors and it think that it’s been a long three years that we were here and once we made it past the semifinal. It has a been a lot of fun. We had some really good practices leading up to it and I think all the hard work just paid off.”
Miner enjoyed her first victory against Mater Dei and was up for the challenge meeting them for the title.
“For me personally, I never beat Mater Dei in my high school career. It was something cool for me.”
Mater Dei dropped to 29-5 overall.
Zaria Henderson had 12 kills for Mater Dei. Mia Tuaniga had 29 assists, 10 digs. Jordyn Schilling had 21 digs.
Redondo opened the playoffs with a first-round bye. They defeated Aliso Niguel 25-11, 25-10, 25-19 in the quarterfinals, beat Sierra Canyon 25-14, 25-23, 25-19 in the semifinals.
Mater Dei beat Mira Costa 3-0 and Marymount 3-1 in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Redondo will now play in the CIF State Girls Volleyball Championships Open Division. There are just five teams and Redondo Union is seeded No. 2 after Torrey Pines.
“I want it 10 times more badly,” Iosia said of playing for a state championship and winning it. “CIF and state champs-that is just icing on the cake for our entire season.”
Redondo Union will have to play Mater Dei one more time on Saturday. The winner plays for the Southern California Regional championship November 19.
It is hard to beat a good team three times in one year. That is what Redondo Union is facing.
“We are going to have to play a little cleaner (in state tourney rematch),” Miner said. “We are going to have to be able to adjust when we are playing them mid-match, so that is probably the most difficult thing.”
Mater Dei head coach Dan O’Dell will no doubt be pulling out all the stops when they travel to Redondo Beach.
“We are solely focused on beating Mater Dei this Saturday night at Sea Hawk Pavillion,” Chaffins said. “I would expect a sell out between two of the top girls’ volleyball programs in the nation. Both teams have a deep respect and even deeper desire to crush each other. Should make for an entertaining and spirited night."
“It is pretty exciting so to play that game at home, it is special for us,” Miner said. “Hopefully we can take that all the way too (and win state).”
Mira Costa is also playing in the state tourney in Division 1. Last Tuesday, the Mustangs opened with first round victory over La Jolla, 3-1. They play again tonight in the second round against Vista Murrieta and the winner will play Long Beach Poly or Sierra Canyon, which is seeded No. 1, in the semifinals on Saturday.
The finals are set for Tuesday, Nov. 19. Mira Costa is seeded No. 4.