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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

La Reina Tries to Build New Playoff Fortunes

November 08, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN

There hasn't been a reason to bring out the two-by-fours at La Reina High, which can mean only one thing: It's been anything but a wooden season at the small all-girls' school in Thousand Oaks.

The Regents have won all 22 volleyball matches they've played and are on a 63-game winning streak in tournaments and matches as they head into the playoffs.

It's no wonder Coach Don Hyatt hasn't had to dust off the two-by-fours, which are part of a grueling drill he picked up from the U.S. national team several years ago.

Before the season, Hyatt insisted his players perform better at the end of games--a problem last year--or take part in "friends," a series of drills in which they push two-by-fours on the floor with their hands as they jog around the gym.

It's not exactly friendly.

"You've really got to get a tough angle with it," Hyatt said. "But I haven't had to use it this year. They've met every challenge I've given them."

Led by middle blocker Jennifer Ryan, who has committed to Santa Clara, and setter-outside hitter Ashlie Hain, who has committed to UC Irvine, La Reina has been nothing short of dominating.

In tournament or match play, the Regents have defeated several ranked teams in higher divisions, including Upland, El Toro, Newport Harbor, Santa Margarita and Westlake.

Ryan, who is 33 kills away from her school-record 353 set last year, has been particularly devastating with a .470 hitting percentage.

Hain has been solid with 141 kills and 45 aces for La Reina, which is seeded No. 3 in Southern Section Division IV-AA and hosts Louisville in the first round on Thursday.

But the Regents aren't free and clear yet. They still might suffer a punishment worse than 100 sets of friends.

The Regents haven't advanced to the semifinals since 1990 and have been ousted in the quarterfinals in six of the last seven years.

Last season, they fumbled away a 20-0 record with a five-game loss to unheralded Whitney in the quarterfinals.

Two years ago, it was a similar result in the same round--they lost a quarterfinal match against Marymount and ruined an 18-0 season.

Three years ago, La Reina lost to Louisville in the first round.

This year?

"The jinx will be no more," Ryan said. "It's ending. We're not going to play not to lose. We're going to play to win."

And to avoid the two-by-fours.

*

Here comes big, bad Palisades.

OK, maybe the Dolphins aren't so big and bad this season, but they might be more than a 45-minute pit stop for Sylmar today in a City Championship quarterfinal at Sylmar.

The three-time defending champions don't have the firepower of the last few seasons, but they upset Taft in a 2 1/2-hour first-round match on Monday.

With 21 City titles, ninth-seeded Palisades (11-3) definitely has the edge in tradition over top-seeded Sylmar (14-0), which has yet to win an upper-division City championship.

But Sylmar has reason to buck tradition--revenge. Palisades dropped the Spartans in four games last year in the City title match.

"We're all looking for revenge [tonight]," said opposite hitter Stephanie Cisneros. "Friends, family, the football team, the baseball team. Everybody's going to be there.

"It's [advertised] on all the chalkboards in school."

*

Some teams are good, some are lucky. Others are both.

Harvard-Westlake (18-2) does not begin the playoffs until Thursday, a luxury teams in higher divisions do not have because there are simply too many teams.

The Wolverines are top-seeded in Division III-AA, which has only 16 teams and begins the first round two days later than divisions that have more teams.

La Canada, seeded No. 4 in III-AA, La Reina, seeded No. 3 in IV-AA, and Village Christian, seeded No. 3 in IV-A, have similar layoffs until their playoffs begin.

"It's letting everyone mend just a little bit," Harvard-Westlake Coach Jess Quiroz said. "After that, it's back to the grind, though."

Divisions are based on the size of a school's enrollment. A new rule by the Southern Section does not allow teams to move up to another division if they wish.

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