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Mira Costa's Best Defense Is Too Much for Mater Dei


Mater Dei dug deep, but Manhattan Beach Mira Costa dug a little deeper and defeated the Monarchs, 9-15, 15-9, 15-6, 16-14, in the Southern Section Division I-A girls' volleyball final Saturday at Cypress College.

Senior Brooke Donahue had 17 kills and 19 digs and senior Kristen Nelson had 16 kills and 24 digs for the top-seeded Mustangs (26-1), who won with their trademark defense and ball-handling skills to claim their first section title since 1995.

Mira Costa's only loss this season was in five games to Chula Vista Bonita Vista, the top-ranked team in the San Diego Section, at the Del Mar Torrey Pines tournament. Saturday's win in the final came after Mira Costa lost in the Division I-AA title matches of 1996, '97 and '99.

"What makes this so special," said Mira Costa Coach DaeLea Aldrich, "is that this group of seniors made it to the semifinals as sophomores, lost in the finals as juniors, and now they get to hang their own banner."

Setter Lexy Beers, who will play at Texas A&M next season, had 45 assists, 11 digs and two blocks and senior Jamie Grass had 23 digs, seven kills and three blocks to help Mira Costa win its 10th section title in its 16th final.

Mater Dei (20-3), playing in its third Division I-A final in the past four years, reached its second consecutive final under Craig Pazanti, the Monarchs' second-year coach.

Last season, Mater Dei lost to Santa Barbara San Marcos, 15-11, 12-15, 15-9, 15-7, and the pain of that defeat lingered to help motivate the Monarchs during their postseason charge this year.

But Mater Dei didn't play its best Saturday, and the Monarchs were also hampered by a key injury.

Junior Breegan Mulligan, the team's top attacker, suffered a thumb injury on a block attempt in the second game. She played with it taped for the rest of the match, but finished with seven kills and six hitting errors in the match and hit only .029.

Junior middle blocker Whitney Pavlik also couldn't find any rhythm, finishing with only eight kills but nine hitting errors.

But even with two of their top players struggling offensively, the Monarchs clawed and scratched defensively and made Mira Costa labor. Pavlik had 13 of her 20 digs and Mulligan had 12 of her 19 digs in the fourth game.

Senior Katie Kahlweiss had 16 kills and 12 digs and Kelley Kincheloe, who has signed with Connecticut, had eight kills and three blocks to provide some offense and help the Monarchs take a 14-13 lead in the fourth game.

"We were one serve away from a fifth game," Pazanti said.

But Nelson spiked for a side out from the back row. Then after two kills by Donahue gave the Mustangs a match point, a dig by Nelson set up Donahue's final kill.

"We all want to be the one who digs the ball," Nelson said. "Four of us started as sophomores and we just wanted this one so bad. We weren't going to let anyone take it from us."

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