May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Top-ranked Tustin girls volleyball team opens league defeating No. 2 Valencia

Tustin High players celebrate a point in Tuesday’s match against Valencia. (Photos Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Tustin High’s girls volleyball players are on a mission and Tuesday night, the Tillers took the first step toward achieving their goal.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

Tustin players, coached by Joanna Lane, want to win the Empire League and they also want to win a CIF Division 5 title.

Tustin’s last league title in girls volleyball came in 1994.

Tustin, ranked No. 1 in the division, opened league play defeating Valencia 25-15, 25-9, 25-20 at Tustin. Valencia came into the match ranked No. 2 in Division 5 and was expected to provide a solid test for the Tillers (17-1).

“I thought we did a really good job of executing, especially in the first and second sets,” Lane said. “I think we served tough and we were in it to win it for the whole time; even in that third set, we kept our composure and we went after them.

“The girls are a special group of girls and they’re all on the same page about their goals and what they want to accomplish. We want to win league and we want to win CIF. We are number one so far, but it’s early and we want to keep one thing at a time. We want to build a community and be a family and practice those good vibes that we preach about.”

Lane said she expects Cypress, which has won the league title the last couple of years, will be among the tough teams in the league along with Pacifica, which was second.

“We have a really strong league,” said Lane, who led the Tillers to a third place league finish last year.

Tustin had contributions from many players Tuesday night.

Alex Cox had 10 kills, Sophie Palmer had nine kills, Ava McInnes had seven kills and Paige Cutwright had six kills. Malia Acosta and Jade Croopnick each had three aces. Acosta had 15 digs and McInnes 10 digs.

Valencia started strong in the third set recording two points on serves by Kelli Castillo. Valencia took a 4-1 lead on an ace by Taylor Johnson before Tustin came back to tie it 8-8. The Tillers took a 14-11 lead and eventually extended it to 20-12 before closing out the match.

“I definitely feel like we came together as a team,” said Tustin’s McInnes, a senior. “We played with trust, and we played with passion. We decided before the game we were going to win this and we weren’t going to let anyone stop us. I feel you could feel that when we were on the court and I think everyone did their part and we came together as a team and I think we played really well.

“I’m super excited for the future and excited to see what happens. We want to take league this year and then CIF, but of course we’re focusing on what we have in front of us but we definitely have some big goals ahead.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com