Winning for the 12th time in its last 13 outings, the La Costa Canyon girls basketball team is now heading back to the CIF Division I championship game for the first time since 2016 and looking for its first section title since 2011. The top-seeded Mavericks under first-year Head Coach Caitlin Eichlin, swept aside fifth-seed Serra, 70-52, in Tuesday night’s semi-final and will duel Avocado West League rival San Marcos Friday at UC San Diego’s RIMAC Arena (6 p.m. tip-off) for the CIF banner. The occasion had more than one person harking back to the tradition of success the program has had over the years.
“It’s amazing, kind of surreal that we’re going to the CIF championship game—it hasn’t really set in yet,” said Eichlin. “It’s even more surreal in the sense that 10 years ago we were in the same game and I was on the bench playing for Coach (John) Labeta.
“Tonight, I’m coaching the team, he was sitting in the stands watching and his daughter, Kari (DiGiulio) is my athletic director.” For junior Haley Dumiak, one of Eichlin’s stars Tuesday night, it was a family thing.
“This is great, I have older siblings who all went through this at LCC as players,” said Dumiak, “and now that I’m a junior I’m finally going to a CIF championship—it feels good to join that group.”
The 6-foot Dumiak racked up a game high 21 points and 12 rebounds vs. Serra and junior guard Katie Quain chipped in with 18 as LCC put together a 28-16 lead by halftime and never let the Conquistadors seriously endanger it.
“These girls really deserve it,” said Eichlin. “They work so hard every day and there were a lot of growing pains along the way but we tried to grow every single game.” She singled out Dumiak’s performance against Serra.
“Haley had a huge game and had a big game in the quarterfinals against Rancho Bernardo. She struggled in the early season to find her groove, understand where she fit. She’s figured it out now and is showing new confidence every time she takes the floor.”
The Mavericks got a quick test of their fortitude Tuesday when junior Hannah Etheridge, an emerging inside force alongside Dumiak, collected her fourth foul just minutes into the second quarter. With Etheridge tethered to the bench, Dumiak took charge in the post, but it also gave some of LCC’s reserves a chance to shine and they did just that.
“Losing Hannah hurt us but when that happened, I turned to our players on the bench and said ‘who wants to step up?’ “ Eichlin recalled. “Sydney Mazzilli, Lindsay Zientek and Lauren Hendricks all said ‘me.’
“So they all got a shot and they took it. They filled the gap and really brought a lot of energy to the court, particularly on the defensive end.”
Reaching Friday’s championship is the culmination of an improbable run for the Mavs who were an uncharacteristic 7-9 a week into January. Dumiak sees it as all part of a long process. “The tough schedule we played in pre-season was a challenge but prepared us for our league season and the games we’re playing now,” said Dumiak. “We have a pretty young team with only two seniors and we had to get used to playing with each other, playing as a team—that takes time.
“Now, Friday is going to be about just getting out there and doing what we know we need to do as a team—working together, running our sets and playing hard for our seniors. That’s what it comes down to.”