Temecula Chaparral and Santa Ana Mater Dei seemed to be on a collision course to meet in the championship match Saturday at the Torrey Pines girls' volleyball tournament.
Chaparral came into the tournament ranked No. 13 in the nation by prepvolleyball.com, one spot ahead of its semifinal opponent, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, which it defeated this season at the Las Vegas Durango tournament. On an adjacent court, Mater Dei faced the No. 2 team in the country, San Jose Mitty. The No. 18 Monarchs appeared on their way to an upset after winning the first two games.
But the Pumas and Monarchs saw their day end sooner than expected with heartbreaking semifinal losses and the absence of a third-place match that could have sent at least one team home a winner.
Unlike Mater Dei, the Pumas (16-3) struggled out of the gate, losing their first two games to La Costa Canyon. They rallied to win the third but were sent home with a 25-19, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19 loss. La Costa Canyon would knock off Mitty, 19-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20.
Chaparral Coach Jo Merandi, in her first season, said the Pumas are experiencing a rash of minor injuries to some key players. Regardless, they did not play like the defending Southern Section Division I-A champions.
"We did not play defense the way we normally do," Merandi said. "This wasn't a good match to go out with."
The Monarchs (16-3), whose only previous losses this season were to Chaparral and La Costa Canyon, were even more shocked at how their tournament ended. They took a 2-0 lead in a rematch of last season's Division II state championship game, won by Mitty in three, and their excitement seemed to overflow in the huddle before the third.
"It's hard to not feel that way," said Mater Dei Coach Karin Thomsen. "You have to know you're in for a battle still, but it was a good feeling to know if we stick to our game plan, we can beat that team."
After Mitty rallied to even the match, Mater Dei again looked to be on the way to the final after building an 11-5 lead in the fifth game. But Archbishop Mitty scored six consecutive points to tie the score and eventually won the final match, 17-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-15, 16-14.
"We didn't adjust to their changes until it was too late in the match," said Thomsen, in her first season coaching the Monarchs. "Mitty's not going to ever lay down."