High School Sports

A big girls volleyball sweep for Arroyo Grande

A half-decade of consecutive league championships is back within the grasp of the Arroyo Grande High girls volleyball team.

The Eagles, the four-time defending PAC 7 champion, swept first-place San Luis Obispo 25-11, 25-23, 25-23 at James Gym on Tuesday night to take a half-match lead in the league standings.

“We definitely want to keep that (four-year streak) alive,” Arroyo Grande senior setter Maggi Jo Keffury said. “We’re all motivated. We all have that same goal. We want five years in a row.”

For Arroyo Grande (13-4, 8-2 PAC 7), the sweep avenged an early-season five-set loss at San Luis Obispo (20-6, 7-2). That match was the Eagles’ first league loss since 2005. Both teams have been ranked in the top 10 of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1-A poll at various times this season.

“It’s huge,” Keffury said of the win. “This gets us one step closer.”

It was the final home match of the regular season for the Eagles, whose only other league defeat came 25-21, 25-17, 18-25, 26-24 at home to Paso Robles (17-6, 7-2), which is now tied for second.

“It was a good win for us,” Arroyo Grande coach Ernie Santa Cruz said. “It was overdue as far as playing a big match and taking advantage of it. Good teams play well at the end, and I thought we did a good job.

“I was very pleased with the effort, the energy and the drive all night.”

Fittingly, Arroyo Grande will visit Paso Robles at 6 p.m. Thursday in a match with obvious PAC 7 title implications, while San Luis Obispo will host St. Joseph at the same time.

“Everything is pivotal,” Santa Cruz said of the crowded upper-half of the league standings. “Paso’s not going to be any easier than (San Luis Obispo).”

On Tuesday, Nicole Leger led Arroyo Grande with nine kills and 14 digs. Kendall VandenBerg had eight kills, while Alyssa Koenig had seven kills, three aces and two blocks. Madi Ventura made 22 digs in the win.

Playing on its senior night, Arroyo Grande was dominant in the first set, never trailing and using an 8-0 run to get out to an 11-2 lead.

“All of our underclassmen, our non-seniors, were totally behind us and said, ‘We want to play for you,’ ” said Keffury, who earlier this week committed to continue her career as a recruited walk-on at New Mexico State. “To be our last home (match), especially against SLO, our biggest rival, it was just awesome.”

San Luis Obispo, which earlier this month lost kills leader Jessica Chellsen to a leg injury, rallied to turn a 17-12 deficit into a 21-20 advantage in Game 2, but the Eagles pulled away down the stretch to put themselves in position for the sweep.

With the third set tied at 23, Ventura stepped back to serve and promptly delivered the close-out points.

“We definitely trust her 100 percent,” Keffury said of Ventura, a fellow all-league and all-San Luis Obispo County first-team selection as a junior. “We’ve all been on the team since we were sophomores. She’s very consistent and she rarely misses any serves.”

Elizabeth Culpepper led the Tigers with 16 kills. Kennedy Peters led San Luis Obispo with 32 assists, while Linnea Ramirez posted a team-high 21 digs.

“We just couldn’t figure out their serving and pass the volleyball,” Tigers coach Manny Carter said.

“The whole thought of sharing (the league championship) didn’t occur,” Carter said of his players. “We wanted to win it on our own. We know we’ve got some work to do to earn a share of it.”