"I'm so happy, I can't even describe it," said tournament MVP Quinn Dibble, a 5-foot-6 senior setter who dished out 71 assists and continuously kept the Lancers off-balance with dumps, nine of which were successful.
"We keep winning; it feels soooo good!" added junior middle blocker Rachell Johnson. "I love my team. We are so good; these girls are amazing athletes."
They had to be against St. Francis, a young team – with four sophomores and two juniors in the starting lineup – but one chock full of high school and club volleyball All-Americans. The Lancers gave maximum effort from the very first serve, but couldn't contain the potent Torrey Pines middle attack and failed to find a consistent rhythm the entire night.
If there was a key game in a close match that Torrey Pines won 15-7, 10-15, 15-9, 10-15, 15-9 in rally scoring, it undoubtedly was the first. The Lancers, who went to see a movie – Corky Romano – during the seven-hour layover between their five-game semifinal win over Archbishop Mitty and the final, was the more relaxed team at the start. They built a 13-3 lead, helped largely by inconsistent passing by St. Francis on serve-receive, and coasted to the 15-7 win in Game 1.
"The first game really hurt us a lot," said St. Francis outside hitter Jessica Gysin. "They just started off stronger than us."
Torrey Pines (24-1) took the momentum from the first game to Game 2 and had a 6-1 lead after Johnson registered one of her match-high 26 kills, a straight-down slammer that had the 6-foot junior gyrating on the court in celebration.
Johnson's exuberance actually fired up St. Francis. Behind Gysin, the All-American sophomore with the powerful right arm and incredible court savvy, the Lancers scored eight of the next nine points, taking a 9-7 lead on a Colby Lyman block. Anne Montgomery's ace serve gave St. Francis the game, 15-10, and knotted the match.
But if you thought St. Francis was going to keep the momentum going in Game 3, well, Johnson simply wouldn't let that happen. She started the game off with two huge kills in the middle, including one where she hit the ball through three blockers all standing well over six-feet tall.
"We seem to make key plays at the right moment that get us back on track and make us realize we're good," Johnson explained. "Once we have a good play, we're right back in there."
Torrey Pines turned its 2-0 lead in Game 3 to a 10-4 bulge and eased to a 15-9 win.
But St. Francis (20-2) wasn't about to go down easily. The Lancers, selling out on every point, took an 8-2 lead in Game 4 and had it to 10-6 when Lyman, the junior star opposite, re-injured an ankle that had limited her playing time all year. It was the kind of roll shot coach Dave Gambelin's young squad did not need.
Torrey Pines pulled within 11-8 when Chelsea Anderson's spike rolled on the tape and dropped over for a point, but the resilient St. Francis would not quit. A Gysin block and roll shot pulled the momentum back in the Lancers' favor and helped them win Game 4, 15-10.
The fifth game was rally scored, but the only team rallying seemed to be Torrey Pines. The Lancers got up early in the game and never trailed. Senior middle Michelle's Kaufman's kill on a slide move made it 8-5 Torrey Pines, while two Dibble dumps and a Johnson kill extended the lead to 12-7, an almost insurmountable advantage in a rally-scored game. Diane Copenhagen tried to lead a St. Francis comeback with a nice kill in the middle, but it was too little, too late. When Smith's kill found the floor, the story was all Torrey.
Gysin, who led St. Francis with 17 kills (Copenhagen added 12), said the Lancers may have been beaten, but they weren't defeated.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of," she said. "We played very hard as a team. Their middles were just too strong. They definitely won the game for them."
In addition to Johnson's 26 kills, Kaufman, a 6-foot-3 senior, had 15 kills and three blocks for the Falcons. She and Dibble made the all-tournament team, with Dibble being named Most Valuable Player.
"I've never really gotten an award like this," a shocked Dibble said afterward. "It really means a lot to me."
In other action:
Mitty, the nation's No. 8-ranked team, outlasted No. 26 Mira Costa in another five-set thriller to place third, 15-12, 7-15, 11-15, 15-7, 19-17. These two teams, which battled last year in the championship match – which Mira Costa eventually won, 26-24 in the fifth game – were evenly matched throughout the spirited encounter. Either team could have won and it looked like it would be Costa when the Mustangs went up 13-8 in the fifth. But two kills by senior outside hitter Tessa Sphar got the Monarchs going on a five-point run that set up the tense finish, which ended with the ball in the net on Costa's side.
Sphar said her team was happy to finish third in such a competitive tournament.
"First is a lot better than third," she explained, "but we didn't give up. It shows we have a lot of pride in ourselves that we didn't give up despite a loss beforehand. It comes down to who wants it more. We decided to play together and overcome out mistakes."
One team that did not fare as well as expected was Tampa's Berkeley Prep, which entered the TOC 19-4 and ranked No. 30 in the nation. The Bucs, playing without senior star middle Kayla Mora, who injured an ankle earlier in the week and didn't make the trip to California, fell in three straight games to Bakersfield Centennial to open the tournament and lost to Torrance's Bishop Montgomery 15-7, 10-15, 15-11, 15-2 in Saturday's Consolation Championship match. In between, Berkeley struggled to beat Santa Barbara San Marcos and Bakersfield Stockdale, each in five games.
Quinn Dibble, Torrey Pines MVP
Michelle Kaufman, Torrey Pines
Colby Lyman, St. Francis
Diane Copenhagen, St. Francis
Lindsey Sherburne, Archbishop Mitty
Nora Pirzynski, Mira Costa
Noelle Quinn, Bishop Montgomery
Sarah Nadler, Presentation
St. Francis d. Santa Barbara 15-2, 15-4, 15-1
St. Mary's d. Bishop Montgomery 5-15, 15-6, 16-14, 15-11
Newport Harbor d. Royal 15-11, 15-3, 15-6
Mira Costa d. Bakersfield 15-4, 15-11, 15-6
Torrey Pines d. Stockdale 15-6, 15-10, 15-7
Presentation d. El Toro 2-15, 15-7, 13-15, 15-5, 15-7
Centennial d. Berkeley Prep 15-12, 15-10, 15-13
Mitty d. San Marcos 15-1, 15-4, 15-5
St. Francis d. St. Mary's 15-2, 15-4, 15-3
Mira Costa d. Newport Harbor 15-3, 15-8, 17-15
Torrey Pines d. Presentation 15-13, 16-14, 13-15, 15-13
Mitty d. Centennial 15-13, 15-7, 15-13
St. Francis d. Mira Costa 15-9, 12-15, 15-9, 15-8
Torrey Pines d. Mitty 15-11, 15-8, 12-15, 4-15, 15-12
Torrey Pines d. St. Francis 15-7, 10-15, 15-9, 10-15, 15-9
Mitty d. Mira Costa 15-12, 7-15, 15-11, 15-7, 19-17 (3rd place)
Presentation d. Centennial 15-1, 15-12, 8-15, 15-5 (5th place)
St. Mary's d. Newport Harbor 5-15, 8-15, 15-8, 15-12, 15-13 (7th place)
Bishop Montgomery d. Berkeley Prep 15-7, 10-15, 15-11, 15-2 (consolation championship)