San Clemente, proving itself to be one of the county's top girls' volleyball teams, took the lead in the race for the South Coast League title with a 15-8, 15-5, 16-14 victory over Mater Dei Tuesday night at San Clemente.
San Clemente, No. 3 in The Times Orange County rankings, took the first two games easily from No. 2 Mater Dei before falling behind, 12-5, in the third.
Sparked by some incredible defensive plays by Kate Metzger, the Tritons battled back to tie the score, 13-13. A kill by Maureen Thompson gave the Monarchs the lead, 14-13, but the Tritons scored the last three points of the match on a Monarch hitting error, a block by Paige Spaulding and Whitney McAtee and an ace by Metzger.
San Clemente, 8-1 and 3-0 in league, has never won a league title, and has not advanced to the Southern Section playoffs in 12 years.
The Monarchs (6-1, 2-1) advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season and were considered one of the nation's top teams this season. Before Tuesday, San Clemente and Mater Dei each had lost only to Huntington Beach, the county's top-ranked team.
Senior outside hitter Wendy Wilkins led San Clemente with 13 kills, Metzger contributed 11 and Spaulding had 10. McAtee had 51 assists.
Roberta Gehlke had a match-high 17 kills for Mater Dei.