In one of the most important matches in the history of girls volleyball at Samohi, the Vikings battled to a 3-1 semifinal win over Chadwick Palos Verdes last Tuesday to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division III championship match this coming weekend. It was a gutsy, come-from-behind victory for the “Lady Vikes,” who were hurting going into the match. The big loss was senior setter and team anchor Jeana Schkud who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preceding quarterfinals match against Gabrielino of San Gabriel. Although on the court against Chadwick, back row specialist Gabie Levesque was recovering from dehydration, and three other Viking teammates were battling the flu.
Enjoying home court advantage at their hilltop enclave in Palos Verdes, and facing a somewhat unsteady Viking squad, Chadwick won the first game of the match. With the season on the line, Samohi battled back to win the second game 25-21. Despite all the adversity, victory was suddenly in sight. Game Three proved to be the pivotal contest, a closely fought seesaw battle with extended volleys and inspired play on both sides of the net. Among others, Samohi middle blocker Kendall Stewart made a series of great plays as the Vikings finally prevailed 25-23. Chadwick never recovered as Samohi cruised to a Game Four 25-13 win to win both the match and a shot at the CIF championship.
“We played great,” according to Head Coach Liane Sato. “We played disciplined defense and our passing was fabulous.”
“We wanted the win so badly,” noted outside hitter Heidi Hillman. “We have been working for four years to get to this point.”
Katona and Hillman are arguably two of the best outside hitters in Southern California, but then there are plenty of heroes on this year’s team, not the least of whom is substitute setter, junior Jordie Cohen, who came off the bench and filled in admirably in Samohi’s victories over Garbielino and Chadwick. “At first it was very scary coming into the playoffs, but I got great support from my teammates,” said to Cohen. “We play together as a team on and off the bench.”
Additional Vikings include starters Brittany Neff and Autumn Kanne. Lisa de la Puente, Kiah Carr, Victoria Williams (who helped dominate Gabrielino), Morgan Von Bushkirk (ace server), and Tess Walther complete the Viking varsity roster.
Liane Sato (who played for USA in the ‘88 and ‘92 Olympics) is Head Coach and Nguyen Trinh is the Viking Assistant Coach. Both the girls and boys volleyball programs have thrived under their leadership. Both squads have gone to post-season play in each of the last four seasons. In 2006, the Samohi boys won the CIF Division III championship, the school’s first boys volleyball title in 27 years.
There is an interesting historical footnote for one of the players on this year’s Viking team. Junior Morgan Von Bushkirk’s father, Jerry, played for Samohi and was on the CIF Championship team that won it all in 1974. Now, 34 years later, the Viking volleyball family saga continues!