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It Might Be Banner Year for Harvard-Westlake

High school volleyball: Wolverines clinch tie for Mission League title by beating Flintridge Sacred Heart.

October 27, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

STUDIO CITY — The celebration was less than overwhelming after Harvard-Westlake High clinched a tie for its ninth consecutive league title.

No hugs, no teary eyes, no memorable speeches.

After the Wolverines defeated Flintridge Sacred Heart, 15-6, 15-3, 15-9 in a girls' volleyball match, there was a strange feeling of professionalism. Or maybe that was just destiny.

Harvard-Westlake has bigger goals on the list, most notably Southern Section and state championships.

Fifteen minutes after the victory Thursday, when the players had dutifully taken down the nets at Harvard-Westlake, outside hitter Anna Nesser explained the low-key reaction.

"We want one of those again," she said, pointing to a banner high up on the gymnasium wall that proclaimed the Wolverines 1995 state champions. "We look at it every day and talk about how we want another one up there."

At this rate, it's only a matter of time.

The top-ranked Division III team in the state, Harvard-Westlake (16-2, 8-0 in Mission League play) won with its usual flair and panache, taking 10-0 leads in the first and second games.

Courtney Schultz and Karalyn Kuchenbecker each had 11 kills, and Nesser added 10 for Harvard-Westlake, which holds a two-match lead over Sacred Heart (9-4, 6-2) with matches left against Alemany and Notre Dame.

The Wolverines' 80th consecutive league victory held little drama until the third game, when Harvard-Westlake overcame a 9-8 deficit by scoring the final seven points.

"The girls want to get this over with and start [the Southern Section playoffs]," Harvard-Westlake Coach Jess Quiroz said. "It's good we did it in nice clean fashion tonight."

Schultz, one of the top juniors in Southern California, and Kuchenbecker, a strong-swinging outside hitter, give the Wolverines an unbeatable combination on offense.

Nesser, however, makes all the subtle plays that are as important as a block or kill.

The senior outside hitter is a premier passer and, when called upon, can deliver from the outside.

"I've said all along that she's one of my most consistent players," Quiroz said. "She keeps the ball in play. She really does."

Jaclyn Cuevas had 10 kills for Sacred Heart, which has given Harvard-Westlake some memorable matches over the years, but fell short this time.

"It's very frustrating to play them every year and to struggle against this team," said Coach Nancy Tinkham, who has been second to Harvard-Westlake all seven years she has been at Sacred Heart.

"This is definitely one of the strongest Harvard teams I've seen. I don't think I've seen anybody as strong as [Schultz] at Harvard. At least, I can't remember anybody right now."

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