MONROVIA — All the uncertainty surrounding the La Cañada High girls' volleyball team has faded away, as the Spartans no longer have to wonder who'll be in the lineup from one day to the next.
La Cañada has played most of the season shorthanded, due to injuries and the 2013 Tournament of Roses Royal Court, which is how the Spartans lost starting senior libero Madison Teodo when she was selected to the court earlier this month.
Monrovia High was the first team to get hit hard by a Spartans squad that has all their lineup questions answered moving forward, as it was swept by La Cañada at home, 25-19, 25-7, 25-13, in a Rio Hondo League match Thursday.
“I think we are just working better as a team, the flow was just better in the last two games,” said Loren Shin, who’s shifted from starting defensive specialist to libero with Teodo done for the year. “Now it’s more solid on who’s playing. There’s no mix-up or no changes all the time. I think it’s helped us work better as a team.”
The victory brings the Spartans’ (11-8, 7-0 in league) magic number of wins needed to claim a league title for the 10th straight year to just one with three league matches left with Blair, San Marino and Temple City.
That’s good news for La Cañada, which appears to be peaking, especially by its performance in Thursday’s final two games.
“That’s how we should be playing,” said La Cañada Coach Brock Turner of how his team closed out the match. “It shouldn’t matter who we’re playing, we should play like that. …We’ve had a history of starting slow here, but I’m proud of the second and third games. We’ve still got a ways to go, though.”
As they’ve done all year while in the lineup, Spartans senior outside hitters Micaela Anderson and Kendall Walbrecht powered their offense to victory, as Anderson tallied a match-high 21 kills with three blocks and three aces and Walbrecht added 13 kills and four blocks.
Behind them were two steadying forces in sophomores Leigh Sclafani, who hasn’t missed a single set this year, and Shin, who finished with 15 digs and five assists.
Sclafani said setting is easy with hitters like Anderson, Walbrecht and Katie Pierce, who was playing in her third match of the year Thursday.
“I have a lot more confidence [having all my hitters back] and it’s a lot more rewarding with all three of them,” said Sclafani, who saw seven Spartans finish with a kill in the match. “All of them can put the ball away and as a setter I love it when a hitter puts the ball away.”
As it has all season, La Cañada’s offense started with its setter Sclafani, who had 37 assists in the match and did a good job of spreading the ball to all of the Spartans weapons from the outside, middle and opposite.
“I definitely am [trying to spread the ball around],” Sclafani said. “I am thinking more of who’s going to put the ball away first. If a hitter is on I will go to them more, but today they were all on so I didn’t have to worry about it.”
The Wildcats (15-8, 3-4) played the Spartans close in the first game. La Cañada used a 5-0 run early in the opener to take a 6-2 lead, but couldn’t put Monrovia away, as it cut the deficit to one, 10-9. The Spartans used another 4-0 run, fueled by two Anderson kills and one from Taylor Page to go back up five, 14-9.
Monrovia cut back within two, 17-15, but could never tie or pull ahead, as La Cañada closed out the game on a 3-0 run with Anderson notching the last two points on kills.
All the drama was done the rest of the way, as the Spartans used an early 17-3 run to take an insurmountable 19-6 lead in the second game. Walbrecht enjoyed a surge inside that charge, as she logged six points on five kills and a block inside of an 8-1 run to push La Cañada’s advantage to 18-6.
Anderson closed out the second frame as well, as the Spartans’ final five points all came on kills from the senior.
La Cañada pulled away in the middle of the third game on an 8-0 run, which put the Spartans up 19-7, behind strong serves from Sclafani.