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DIVISION 3-A VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP : La Habra Wins Title, Beating El Modena


CERRITOS — La Habra High School found some strange new ways to celebrate its second consecutive Southern Section 3-A girls' volleyball championship Saturday.

There was Zrinka Kristich, the Highlanders' 6-foot-5 outside hitter, lifting Principal Tom Triggs off his feet after he handed her the gold medal.

Then there was Coach Sandy Blumenthal, who held the championship plaque aloft, only to let it slip through her fingers and cut her lip.

All in all, it was another interesting day for the top-seeded Highlanders, who raced past third-seeded and previously unbeaten El Modena, 15-7, 15-1, 15-12, in the final at Cerritos College.

Kristich had 18 kills and middle blocker Missy Clements added 16 as La Habra (19-0) extended its two-year winning streak to 41 matches. Middle blocker Marni Hichborn led El Modena (18-1) with 14 kills.

La Habra, which needed five games to beat Agoura in last year's final, had reason to celebrate. The victory left the Highlanders as Orange County's only undefeated team.

"This one was just as sweet as last year,"said Blumenthal, who's in her 20th year coaching at the school. "Although it is a little more painful."

Blumenthal really didn't mind the small cut above her lip. After all, she and the Highlanders advanced to the state tournament, where they will defend their Division II championship.

Perhaps the state tournament will provide some competition for La Habra, which has played only a few matches that lasted longer than three games this season.

It was the second time in the past three years that El Modena has been swept in the 3-A final, having lost to Sunny Hills in the 1988 championship game.

El Modena provided little more than target practice for La Habra.

Kristich had 10 kills and Clements had eight in the first game as La Habra built leads of 8-3 and 12-4.

Blumenthal said La Habra's tall front line of Zrinka Kristich, Clements (5-10) and Ana Kristich (6-1) caused El Modena problems.

"We had a big advantage being so tall," Blumenthal said. "But this team also has been playing together so long that they work well together."

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