It will be a clash of powerhouse teams Saturday.
Redondo Union girls’ volleyball team, ranked No. 1 in the final CIF-Southern Section Division poll, faces off against No. 3 ranked Mater Dei for the CIF-SS championship at 8 p.m. Saturday at Cerritos College.
Redondo Union brings in a 37-3 overall record while Mater Dei is 29-4.
But, Mater Dei is no stranger to CIF championship matches having played in the last seven consecutive final CIF games.
Last year Redondo Union had one of the best teams in the Southern Section, but it could not get past the semifinals. It broke through this year with a win over Sierra Canyon to earn a spot in the final.
"The girls are quite excited to play in the Division 1 finals,” said Redondo Union head coach Tom Chaffins, who has been in his position since 2001. “We had made the semi's the past two years, but we were able to punch our name into the finals with outstanding play and our home crowd cheering us on.”
Both teams are nationally ranked. Redondo Union is ranked No. 7 in USA Today Sports Super 25 Expert Rankings with Mater Dei No. 12. MaxPreps Top 25 had Mater Dei ranked No. 2 and Redondo Union No. 8.
Chaffins said his team wants to put up a CIF Division 1 championship banner this year. But, first they have to get past Mater Dei.
"We will need to bring great mental and physical effort on every play to give ourselves the best chance to bring home a CIF title to Sea Hawk Pavilion," said Chaffins.
If Redondo Union wins, it might be the greatest collection of talent Chaffins has ever assembled on one team. Their record reflects that.
"I'm happy for our entire team, but maybe especially for the 12 seniors,” Chaffins said. “This senior class is special no matter what unfolds the next few weeks, but I'm hoping for them, they can enjoy winning a championship with each other for each other.”
Earlier in the season, Redondo Union defeated Mater Dei in five sets 24-26, 22-25, 29-27, 25-20, 15-8 before a packed gym in Redondo Beach. They were on the brink of losing, but rallied to take the third set and begin their comeback.
Redondo Union freshman Mele Corral-Blagojevich and senior Nalani Iosia rose to the occasion helping the Sea Hawks pull out the victory.
“She shows up when we have times of adversity,” said Iosia of Corral-Blagojevich. “She plays like a senior, which is great.”
Kami Miner, Redondo Union’s best player was not there.
“I think that was one of the best games that we played (all season),” Iosia said. “There was a lot of energy in the gym, there was a lot of fans.”
Mia Tuaniga and Zavia Henderson are two of Mater Dei’s top players.
Both teams have also qualified for the CIF-State Volleyball Championships along with Mira Costa. That bracket will be announced on Sunday.
Last Saturday, Redondo Union defeated Sierra Canyon in three games 25-15, 25-23, 25-19 showing how good they are even against the best Division 1 teams. Sierra Canyon finished the season at 34-3.
"We rolled in the first set, but the second set was the most competitive set we have played in a while,” coach Chaffins said. “We had a 13-8 lead and they tied us at 17. It was a deuce game until 21, then we scored a couple and won 25-23. That was the turning point of the night. Up 2-0 vs. 1-1 was a huge momentum swing in our favor and we went wire to wire in the third set."
Redondo Union is on a 16-match winning streak, having not dropped a set all season when they have all their players.
When the tournament started, Redondo Union, seeded No. 1, had a bye in the first round. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Aliso Niguel in three games.