By Matthew Gilson
An upset was brewing, but it wasn't to be.
The Torrey Pines Falcons had a 2-0 lead (in a best-of-five contest) on the La Costa Canyon Mavericks in the Division I girls' volleyball final Saturday at Canyon Crest Academy.
Torrey Pines doesn't play the underdog to most teams. Then again, most teams aren't La Costa Canyon.
Torrey Pines' record is now 21-9. La Costa Canyon's is 31-1.
Torrey Pines had lost only two matches in Palomar League play. They were both to La Costa Canyon.
Torrey Pines was ranked No. 41 in the nation in ESPN's latest Fab 50 poll; La Costa Canyon was No. 2.
The Falcons are good - really good. But so far this year, they hadn't been better than La Costa Canyon.
One to go
Which is why the Falcons' 2-0 start was so impressive. They needed one more game - one more to knock off their rivals, one more for the CIF title.
La Costa Canyon junior outside hitter Natalie Hagglund - last year's CIF player of the year - had to watch those first two games from the sidelines. She had been out for about three weeks with a torn muscle in her back.
Midway through the second game, Hagglund's replacement, sophomore Maddie Rudnick, went down with an ankle injury.
So in the third game, in went Hagglund even though she could only play back row.
Back in the game
"Being on the bench was so hard - I'm so competitive," said Hagglund. "I was so happy to be in there, and I think my spirit helped everyone."
Everyone, that is, except Torrey Pines.
The Falcons got out to an early 7-9 lead in the third game (going to 25). But the Mavericks responded, winning the next eight points to lead 15-9 and then finishing strong for a win.
"When we had our backs against the wall, we picked up our intensity," said La Costa Canyon head coach Pat McDougall.
Turning it around
Game four started close as well, but the Mavericks turned an 8-9 deficit into a 14-9 lead and cruised to a 25-16 victory. The match moved to a fifth and deciding game, this one played to just 15 points.
It was tied at seven. Tied at eight. Tied at nine. After two hours of volleyball, a race for the last six points would determine the winner.
La Costa Canyon won the next three to go up 12-9 and Torrey Pines couldn't recover. Junior Hannah Townsend had the final kill to give the Mavericks a 15-11 win - and the title.
Torrey Pines assistant Tanner Kortman had a few shout-outs on his side.
"Jenny Wollway, our setter, played great," he said. "Also Kerra 'Boo' Schroeder and Whitney Wilkerson, two of our seniors, it was their last CIF games and they really stepped up."
Falcons head coach Jim Harrah couldn't fault his team's effort.
"We played hard every point," he said.
Despite the loss Torrey Pines advanced state playoffs on Tuesday along with LCC. (Due to the holiday, the newspapers went to press before the games. Check the Web sites for updates.)
Matthew Gilson is an intern with San Diego Suburban Newspapers who attends Point Loma Nazarene University.