Lady Vaqueros earn Division I finals appearance, finish second to Parker

Photo by Phillip Brents Members of the El Capitan High School girls volleyball team celebrate a point during last Saturday’s San Diego Section Division I championship game.

Aside from the 2016 San Diego Section Division III championship team, this year’s Division I runner-up finish has marked the highest place-finish for the El Capitan High School girls volleyball team in post-season play.

The Lady Vaqueros spiked Classical Academy in four games to win the 2016 CIF title under coach Randall Barnes.

The Division I field is two rungs up the ladder in section playoff hierarchy from Division III.

“Us being here is the highest for any sport at the school,” said El Capitan head coach Brennan Pau, whose team was swept by Francis Parker in last Saturday’s final at Southwestern College. Previously, the Lady Vaqueros finished third in the Division I playoffs.

Pau said the division is highly competitive with a lot of parity between the teams.

“In Division I, anyone can win on any given day,” he said.

El Capitan, based on its 10-0 Grossmont Hills League record and 24-7 regular season record, earned the No. 1 seed in the Division I bracket while Francis Parker — runner-up in the Coastal League and 18-8 in the regular season — received the No. 2 seed.

Both teams claimed their three preliminary-round games to reach last Saturday’s division championship game.

The Lady Vaqueros defeated 16th-seeded Classical Academy in four games (25-14, 25-16, 23-25, 25-10) in the opening round, then swept past eighth-seeded La Jolla in the quarterfinals (25-18, 25-18, 25-14). El Capitan defeated fourth-seeded Del Norte in a three-game sweep (26-24, 25-23, 25-12) in the semifinals.

In the win over Classical Academy, junior outside hitter Madelyn Wutzke collected 17 kills, six serving aces and 19 digs while junior middle blocker Savannah Simpson netted 12 kills and five serving aces. Senior outside hitter Madison Triplett contributed 11 kills while senior setter Ruby Ennis had five serving aces and 34 assists. Senior libero Madison Liedecke had 18 digs.

In the win over La Jolla, Triplett had 18 kills, Wutzke had 10 kills, four serving aces and 17 digs while Liedecke had 22 digs and Ennis had 30 assists.

In the semifinal win over the Lady Nighthawks, Triplett had 14 kills and 21 digs, Wutzke had 11 kills and 20 digs, Simpson had 11 kills, Ennis had four serving aces and Liedecke had 19 digs and 28 assists.

“We’re a very balanced team,” Pau said. “We’re a mix with a lot of varsity experience with a lot of new faces. Our senior class is just so savvy. It’s a family. You want to win for your friends.”

Francis Parker defeated 15th-seeded Canyon Crest Academy, 3-0, in the first round and seventh-seeded Sage Creek, 3-1 (25-8, 27-29, 25-16, 25-21), in the quarterfinals.

The Lady Lancers rallied to post 3-2 come-from-behind win (29-27, 25-27, 22-25, 25-21, 15-13) over third-seeded Poway in the semifinals.

Francis Parker coach Rodrigo Suelotto said his team was familiar with El Capitan after opening the season with a 3-2 loss to the Lady Vaqueros on Aug. 14.

“It’s all about preparation,” Suelotto said. “You can’t worry about some things that are uncontrollable. We came here to respect our opponent. We knew them pretty well. If you allow them to get into a rhythm, it’s hard to stop them.”

That’s exactly what happened: the Lady Lancers got up early in all three games and managed to weather late rallies by the Grossmont Hills League champions.

Francis Parker won the first game 25-19, then captured the second game 25-23 before claiming the sweep with a 25-13 win.

El Capitan fought hard to catch up in the second game, closing to 18-22 and 22-24 before finally allowing match point.

The Lady Vaqueros got off to a 0-5 hole in the third game and trailed by scores of 10-5, 13-6 and 20-8. Francis Parker extended its lead to 24-9 before finally ending a four-point rally by El Capitan.

It marked the first CIF section title for Francis Parker since 2012.

State of mind

Despite the loss in the section final, El Capitan (21-9) earned the No. 5 seed in the Division II Southern California regional tournament and was set to host 12th-seeded Canyon (25-6) in Tuesday’s opening round.

The regional tournament includes four rounds leading to the regional final on Nov. 14. The state championships are slated Nov. 17-18 at Santiago Canyon College in Orange. This year’s state championship field includes 176 teams in seven divisions.

Francis Parker (22-8) received the No. 4 seed in the same Division II regional field. The Lady Lancers were set to host 13th-seeded Capistrano Valley Christian (33-4) on Tuesday.

Otay Ranch, which earned the No. 5 seed in the Open Division section playoffs, received the No. 2 seed in the Division II regional draw. The Lady Mustangs (42-9) were set to host 15th-seeded West Ranch (20-3) in Tuesday’s opening round.

San Diego Section
Girls Volleyball Finals

Open Division: (1) Cathedral Catholic def. (2) Torrey Pines, 3-2

Division I: (2) Francis Parker def. (1) El Capitan, 3-0

Division II: (4) Our Lady of Peace def. (2) Pacific Ridge, 3-2

Division III: (6) Mission Hills def. (1) San Pasqual, 3-1

Division IV: (2) Oceanside def. (1) Valley Center, 3-0

Division V: (2) Southwest El Centro def. (1) Lincoln, 3-1

Division V-AA: (3) Calipatria def. (8) Rock Academy, 3-1