The Malibu Sharks girls volleyball team was down, but not out, on Oct. 22.
The visiting California Lutheran C-Hawks won the first set over the Sharks by seven points and scored the first point of the second set. Then, Malibu, in front of a raucous crowd in the Malibu High gym, went on the offensive. Senior captain Lucia Granados registered a kill, then on her first serve, nailed an ace. Before long, Malibu led the second-round CIF Southern Section Girls Volleyball Championship Division 8 match 9-7.
The C-Hawks, from Wildomar in Riverside County, went on a run to take a 15-10 lead, but Malibu battled back and tied the game at 15. In response, Malibu fans stomped the bleachers and chanted “Let’s Go Sharks!” and cheered the players by name.
“I was happy to see everyone here today,” said Granados, an outside hitter. “I really appreciate the support of everyone that came out.“
The Sharks led the match 19-18, but slowly by way of deft hitting and Malibu mistakes, Cal Lutheran took the lead and won the set 25-22. The C-Hawks then completed the sweep with a 25-9 third-set win.
Malibu head coach Derek Saenz said the Sharks didn’t play great in the match.
“It sucks to lose that way to a team we could have beat,” he said. “It wasn’t taken from us. It was a giveaway, almost. We are a very talented team; just the pressure got to us.”
The loss closed the Sharks’ season. The squad ended their 2022 campaign with a 10-19 record.
Granados said the season was the best Malibu has had in her four years on the team.
“I really enjoyed this season,” she said. “I love my teammates, and I love our coaches. We put in a lot of effort and time that got us to where we should be.”
Malibu began the playoffs with a 3-1 win over the Coast Union Broncos in Cambria on Oct. 19. Sophomore middle blocker Catherine McDonough dominated the back half of the match to solidify the victory for Malibu.
In the first-round playoff win, Saenz said his team played more freely then they did in the next round.
“We were somewhere where nobody knew us,” he said. “We had no friends, no family, no expectations. The girls had no idea where they were. They just played. We seemed to have been better on the road.”
Granados said the victory over Coast Union was awesome.
“It really defined us,” she said.
The trip from Malibu to the San Luis Obispo County-based opponent took three hours. The Sharks played games, slept, and sung on the road trip. There was also a coffee stop.
Granados said the Sharks went into Coast Union’s gym mentally prepared.
“We went so far,” she said. “It takes a lot of mental strength to focus and play that game and win. We had consistent mental energy. If we messed up, we put it behind us and kept going.”
The playoff appearance was the first time a Sharks girls volleyball squad had competed in the postseason since 2017.
California Lutheran played Twentynine Palms in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The winner of that contest will play in the semifinals on Saturday. The championship is Nov. 5.
Saenz said the Sharks are in a good spot since most of the roster should be on the team next year.
“We finished second in league,” he said. “The main thing I want them to do is to buy into the full cycle of the sport. Postseason is now added to the calendar and now offseason — all the work, all the magic is done there. We should be back a lot stronger.”