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GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Powerhouse Santiago Still a Sweep Sensation

TEMECULA – Last season, Corona Santiago’s girls volleyball team registered a sweep in its first 36 matches. A couple of times, the Sharks staged furious rallies to keep that impressive streak alive.

That fighting spirit has returned this season.

Santiago managed to fend off four set points and win Thursday evening’s opener, and the Sharks carried that momentum and swept Temecula Great Oak, 26-24, 25-13, 25-21, in a nonleague match pitting Inland area powers.

The Sharks (15-1) have registered a sweep in 15 matches this season, and Thursday was the program’s 54th sweep over 57 matches.

“There’s definitely a bit of pressure because of what we did last year,” senior oppositeLauren Lee said. “No matter what the score might be, we keep encouraging one another and just fight our hardest until the very end.”

The opening set was tightly contested until Great Oak (2-2) made a late surge to take a 24-21 lead. The Wolfpack couldn’t find the finishing touch, however. Santiago won the final five points, including two solo blocks and a kill by middle blocker Makayla Wolfe.

“We had three good swings to put the set away, but we couldn’t get that ball down,” Great Oak coach Mark Motluck lamented. “That was a difficult thing to overcome.”

Santiago won seven consecutive points to race out to a 12-4 lead in the second set. Lee, Natalie Shollin and Jordan Koehnke each had two kills during that early run.

Great Oak managed to trim the deficit to five points on a couple of occasions, but Santiago closed out the set with a 6-0 run. Bailee Turang served a pair of aces during the final stretch, and Wolfe slammed down the kill that have the a Sharks a 2-0 set lead.

“We were really off during that opening set,” Santiago coach Arlen Elvik said. “Credit to the girls for keeping things together. And then they kept on rolling into that next set.”

Wolfe, a 6-foot-3 junior, recorded three more blocks at the start of the final set to help the Sharks grab a 10-2 lead. Santiago finished the match with 10 total blocks, and Wolfe was in on eight of those, helping neutralize Great Oak right-side hitter Bailee Huizenga.

“That definitely was our goal going into the match,” said Wolfe, who also had nine kills.

Great Oak staged a rally of its own, however, and ended up with a 21-20 lead in the set. Huizenga had some success hitting out of the back row, and Amy Underdownhad a pair of blocks to give the Wolfpack the lead.

Santiago once again regrouped and won the final five points of the match. Great Oak had two hitting errors and shanked two serves by Santiago defensive specialist Sarah Smevog.

Lee and Koehnke each had 10 kills to lead the way for Santiago. Turang led the Sharks’ defensive effort with 18 digs.

Underdown had nine kills to lead Great Oak, and Huizenga added eight more.Samantha Rice finished with 10 digs to lead Wolfpack.