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Redondo girls celebrate their win in straight sets against Aliso Niguel in the CIF quarterfinal at Redondo on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

It finally happened.

When Laila Ricks recorded the final block to send Redondo to its first CIF Southern Section girls volleyball final since 2015, the jubilation was unmistakable.

Nalani Iosia and Antonia Felix leapt high into the air as they led the charge on to the court following a 25-15, 25-23, 25-19 Division 1 semifinal victory over Sierra Canyon on Saturday night at Redondo High.

Ricks and Kami Miner embraced.

“I was up there pretty high — that jump is where all my energy went,” said Iosia, a four-year player and libero who usually only leaps during her jump serve.

Redondo (37-3), a four-time CIF Southern Section champion, will compete in the Division 1 final against Mater Dei, a four-game winner over Marymount, next Saturday at Cerritos College.

Redondo had been stopped in the semifinals in each of the past two seasons, and its large group of seniors knew this was their final opportunity to leave a lasting mark on a proud program that is playing in its eighth section final overall.

“We were much more engaged this entire season,” said Redondo’s Lauren Osborne, another four-year player. “We wanted this to be our year.”

Ricks said she felt the magnitude of the moment when she went up for the final block.

“I had a feeling, a vision about it,” Ricks said. “I could see myself pressing my hands over the net. It felt great, kind of surreal. It’s a good feeling because I did it for my teammates.”

Sierra Canyon (34-3) will continue its season in the Southern California Regionals, most likely in the Open Division, and a rematch against Redondo still possible.

Sierra Canyon pushed Redondo in the second set, forging six ties and fending off two set points before Redondo closed out. Sierra Canyon also made a late run in the third set to close from 21-12 to 23-19 before finally succumbing.

“Our coach wants us to hold our heads high,” said Sierra Canyon’s Jaida Tausa’afia Sione, who had six kills and four blocks. “They were really good. But even when we were losing, our attitude picked up and we were proud of our effort.”

Redondo had been building toward this moment all season, one that became more vivid in its minds with a five-set victory over Mater Dei on Sept. 5. It was Redondo’s first victory over Mater Dei in four seasons.

“Everyone was on a high, and that gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season,” Redondo freshman Mele Corral-Blagojevich said. “No one has been complacent. Everyone has been hungry. Whenever we have had adversity, we managed to pull through.

“And we know what this means to our seniors, and we want to help them achieve what they wanted to accomplish this season.”

Redondo thrived in what Coach Tommy Chaffins calls his cornerstones: passing and serving.

Corral-Blagojevich had 10 kills and two aces for Redondo. Ricks had six kills and two blocks. Osborne and Jesse Szymanski each added five kills. Jody Smith had three kills and two blocks.

In addition to Sione, Jaylen Jordan and Addison Peeler each contributed had six kills and two blocks for Sierra Canyon. Fetogi Fonoti had three kills and two blocks, and Taylor Simpson had 21 assists.

But there was no derailing a locked-in Redondo.

“Our next-play focus was incredible tonight,” said Miner, a junior. “With 12 seniors, there’s definitely a bond with all of us. Everyone stepped up and came together. We were focused at practice, and we played like we practiced. We were all on the same page.”

Iosia’s sister Norene won back-to-back CIF titles with Redondo in 2014 and 2015, so now Nalani will have a chance to extend the family legacy.

“She had those back-to-back titles, but I said, ‘OK, at least I get one final.’ It just felt like all our hard work is paying off,” Nalani said.

 
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