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Santa Margarita Defeats Cypress, Wins Section Title


Santa Margarita ended Cypress' Cinderella run through the Southern Section Division II-AA girls' volleyball playoffs Saturday, but the Centurions didn't go quietly.

Cypress rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force a fourth game in their best-of-five match, before losing Saturday afternoon at Cypress College.

Santa Margarita's 15-10, 15-6, 13-15, 15-11 victory marked the school's third consecutive section title. It was Cypress' first appearance in a section final, after knocking off top-seeded Mater Dei in the quarterfinals.

Both teams advance to the state Division II playoffs, which begin Tuesday.

It was also the fifth consecutive section volleyball title for Santa Margarita Coach Eddie Rapp, who also has directed the boys' team to back-to-back titles.

Santa Margarita got good production out of its middle, led by Sarah Ballog (15 kills, eight blocks). Cypress had difficulty getting team kill leader Dusty Creager involved in its offense, particularly in the first two games.

Creager finished with 12 kills, three down the stretch in the crucial third game, in which Cypress took a 14-6 lead and barely hung on.

"We really had trouble in those first two games," Creager said. "We haven't seen that good of a blocking team. They are the best I've seen.'

Rapp said he changed his serving rotation in an attempt to slow Creager.

"When we scouted them, we saw that she was the girl, their heart and soul, the one who gets them going and fired up," Rapp said.

Santa Margarita, meanwhile, got good offensive production from junior outside hitter Lauren Heri, who finished with 16 kills and 10 digs. Junior outside hitter Caroline Skacel contributed nine kills and 10 digs in a match in which, at times, seemed that neither team wanted to take charge during long rallies.

Ballog said the Eagles were content to sideout with the Centurions and wear them down.

"We train really hard and I think in the long run our endurance really helps us," Ballog said.

Cypress had eight service errors and nine aces. Santa Margarita had 10 service errors and eight aces.

Santa Margarita ran off six consecutive points for a 14-6 lead in the first game and outscored Cypress, 11-3, to close out the second.

Cypress, serving several aces, raced to a 9-3 lead in the third game, and survived an Eagle comeback at 14-13.

"They were serving us tough in that third game and our passing went bad," Ballog said.

Ballog got a block and a pair of tips to drop to start the final game, and Santa Margarita took an 8-1 lead.

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