ONTARIO — Tarbut V’Torah girls volleyball coach Derek Tran said his heart probably skipped a few beats during the final point.
The ball went back and forth over the net for more than minute before freshman outside hitter Maya Coblentz-Brown registered her 31st kill to lift the Lions to a 16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 17-25, 15-13 victory over top-seeded United Christian Academy in the CIF Southern Section Division 9 title match Saturday at Colony High School.
The epic rally was one of the defining moments in Tarbut V’Torah capturing the program’s first section title.
“I think I lost a couple years of my life in this match,” said Tran, who is in his first year in charge of the program. “We told them that it wasn’t going to be easy tonight. But anything worth winning is going to take a lot of work, and that is exactly what these girls have done to reach this moment.”
Coblentz-Brown had two kills early in the deciding set to help Tarbut V’Torah take a 7-3 lead, but United Christian tied the score at 8. Coblentz-Brown had another kill and an ace to help the Lions (12-2) reach match point at 14-11. United Christian staved off a pair of match points, but the Eagles could not do it a third time. Coblentz-Brown hit a looping shot from the back row that fell to the floor to set off a celebration on the court.
“I wanted to make sure to get the point, but I also was a little scared because I didn’t want to make a mistake,” Coblentz-Brown said. “We all just started celebrating. Honestly, that is one of the greatest moments of my life.”
United Christian (21-2) got off to a strong start in a match that started at 8:30 p.m. Aviana Langston served up three aces to spark a 9-0 run that gave the Eagles a 15-5 advantage in the opening set. Tarbut V’Torah tried to fight back, but a slew of errors prevented that from happening and allowed United Christian to take the first set.
Tarbut V’Torah cleaned things up during the second set and led 11-5 after back-to-back aces by senior setter and captain Ava Kurtz. United Christian cut the deficit to two points, but Coblentz-Brown had four kills down the stretch to help the Lions close out the set and level the match. United Christian had few answers for Coblentz-Brown, who continued to have a hot hand in the third set. She recorded 10 of her kills in that game to help Tarbut V’Torah pull ahead.
“She came from the East Coast to play big-time volleyball here on the West Coast,” Tran said. “I just told her to have some fun tonight… And once she settled down and got into a rhythm, she really was able to carry us on offense.”
Tarbut V’Torah had a 12-7 lead in the fourth set, but another spate of errors by the Lions opened up the door for United Christian. The Lions had four aces, including a set-clincher by Arabella Brouwer, to force a decisive fifth set.
Kurtz had a rough fourth set, as she was whistled for four ball-handling errors. Tran talked to his setter before the start of the fifth set, and told Kurtz to keep her head up because the team would follow her.
“I had to be confident going back out there and be a leader for my team,” Kurtz said. “We knew if we played out best, we could get it done.”
United Christian coach Micah Langston was disappointed with the loss but was proud of his team’s fight until the very end.
“In that fourth set, I called a time out because I could see their demeanor was not looking good,” Langston said. “I told them we can keep playing this way and go home early, or we can battle back and try to win this in five.”
Elizabeth Markham finished with 15 kills for Tarbut V’Torah, and Coblentz-Brown also had a team-high aces.
Marissa Heimbaugh and Sienna Snawder registered 12 and 10 kills respectively to lead the way for United Christian. Aviana Langston had five aces for the Eagles, and Heimbaugh and Snawder each added three aces.
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