PaliHi Girls Volleyball Endures Heartbreaking Championship Loss (Video)

By Sue Pascoe 

It took five games and almost two hours before the City Section Open Division girls volleyball championship was  decided on Saturday night at the Roybal Learning Center.

Ultimately, No. 3-seeded Granada Hills upset top-seeded Palisades High 25-19, 7-25, 25-22, 16-25, 15-13. This was the second year in a row that the Highlanders defeated the Dolphins in the final.

Although Palisades lost, make no mistake, these girls are still champions. Their plays were spectacular and their athleticism incredible as they leaped, jumped, dove and slid on the ground in an effort to score points or keep the ball in play. The sound of fans cheering was deafening in the auditorium.

The first set started badly for the Dolphins as they fell behind 9-1 and could never recover. They didn’t seem to be connecting: maybe it was a case of too much adrenaline or the excitement of the finals.

The Palisades High girls volleyball team lost to Granada Hills in the championship.

In the second set, however, the Dolphins looked like a different team playing. They jumped out to a 14-1 lead, with sophomore Annie Eckert’s deadly serve–and nice switches between slamming the ball for kills, and the little touches just over the net, making the Highlanders dive.  

Pali continued to play well in the third set, going up 12-5, as senior Megan Tazalaar made some nice hits and Alex Laita kept blasting the ball out of reach. The Dolphins led 20-15, but then seemed to lose focus and Granada fought back to take the game. 

Facing a do-or-die situation in the fourth set, the Dolphins again recovered, leading from the first point and eventually winning with ease.

The whole season for both teams thus came down to one set for the championship.  

Granada Hills took a 6-2 lead, but Palisades rallied to lead 7-6, sparked by three kills and block by Abbey Kearney. Back and forth it went–11-11, then 12-12–as the tension built. The Dolphins went ahead on a kill by Laita, but the Highlanders proceeded to win the final three points. 

Although there were tears after such a tough, competitive loss to their cross-city rivals, the Pali sportsmanship was admirable as the girls applauded Granada when they received their medals.

“I feel like in the fifth game we came back a little too late,” said senior captain Angelina Burton, who is an exceptional athlete and an outside hitter. But “Granada played really well.”

Coach Carlos Gray said, “We just didn’t get it done the way we were supposed to.” He blamed himself for the loss, and vowed “I have to be better—I have to make the adjustments.”

“There are always what-ifs,” said Kearney, a middle blocker and senior. “We didn’t execute on key moments, but we played our hearts out.” She astutely observed that the teams were like roller coasters and whoever was the first to get an early lead in each set would win.

Palisades High School girls volleyball vs. Granada Hills Nov. 2017.

Although Palisades had more noticeable talent, Granada Hills was more consistent throughout the match. 

Both teams qualified for the CIF State Regionals, which begin today (Wednesday). Kearney said the Dolphins would watch the game film on Monday and prepare to travel for their first-round game against a yet-to-announced opponent.

Palisades, which beat San Pedro 3-0 and Eagle Rock 3-0 to advance to the championship game, has an overall record of 26-3, after going 12-0 in league play. Granada Hills has a 21-9 record. 

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