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Sylmar Caught in a Sorry State

Division I volleyball state regional: City champion routed by Long Beach Poly.


SYLMAR — The teams were coming down from a championship high, their collective feet gently returning to the gymnasium floor after setting school standards in girls' volleyball a few nights earlier.

Sylmar High had never won an upper-division City Championship until Friday. Long Beach Poly had never won a Southern Section title until Saturday.

They met in the state Division I playoffs Tuesday night, and only one team's historic season continued.

With little drama until the third game, Poly defeated Sylmar, 15-5, 15-0, 16-14, in a Southern Regional quarterfinal at Sylmar.

The Jackrabbits, ranked No. 4 in the state, came up on the short end of the draw with an opening road match, but it didn't matter.

They handled Sylmar with the same ease Northwestern-bound setter Drew Robertson demonstrated time and again with perfectly placed sets.

Sylmar's season ended with a loss, but the Spartans felt the season as a whole was a victory. Sylmar (17-1) had not lost a game in match play until Tuesday.

"That was our focus all year, to win the City Championship, which we did," Sylmar Coach Bob Thomson said. "[Tuesday night,] it was just an honor to be here. To be mentioned in the same breath with teams like this shows how far our program has come."

The Spartans had trouble with Poly's serving in the first game and fell apart completely in the second game, managing only two kills.

But the Spartans rallied in the third game behind the hot hand of Stephanie Cisneros, who reeled off nine kills.

Sylmar led, 14-13, on a kill by Sally Teague, but Poly fought off three game points and advanced to the regional semifinals on an ace by Monique Lui.

"I think we fell into a lull," said Poly Coach Jeff Eyanson, whose team overcame a two-game deficit against San Clemente to win the Southern Section Division I-AA title.

"At some point, after the match the other night, we were going to experience a lull. And Sylmar played great by taking advantage of it. We'll take [a victory] and move on."

Jennifer Randall had 14 kills and Robertson had 33 assists for Poly (35-2), which plays at Chula Vista Bonita Vista on Saturday.

Cisneros finished with 12 kills for Sylmar, a senior-dominated team that lost to Palisades in the City Championship last year, but rifled through the City playoffs en route to the championship.

"It's been great," Cisneros said. "We were all dying for a City title. This was a bonus. It was icing on the cake, even though it didn't go our way."

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