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Garces volleyball's run ends in D-V regional final

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Garces outside hitter Emma Machado goes for a kill in the CIF Southern California Division V championship at Santa Clarita Christian on Tuesday. The Cardinals defeated the Rams in four sets (25-11, 24-26, 25-13, 25-11).

Garces’ magical run through the postseason, which saw the Rams go from a fifth-place team in the Southwest Yosemite League to regional finalist, finally came to an end Tuesday night.

The No. 3 Rams, who entered the playoffs with a losing record, closed out their season one win shy of the state final, losing at top-seeded Santa Clarita Christian, 25-11, 24-26, 25-13, 25-11, in the CIF Southern California Regional Division V volleyball final.

“We had a great season,” first-year Garces coach Rachel Wulff said. “We had a lot of improvement to do from day one, and this team exceeded the expectations that I had for them, and I think even for themselves.”

The loss ended a seven-game win streak for Garces (16-12), which posted three upset victories en route to a Central Section D-IV title as the No. 8 seed. The Rams defeated No. 1 Caruthers and No. 5 Morro Bay on the road before knocking off East in four sets 10 days ago at Lemoore’s Golden Eagle Arena.

“We ended strong, we were on a great run and we played our best volleyball in the postseason,” Wulff said.

But on Tuesday, the Rams finally found an opponent they could not overcome in the undefeated Cardinals (36-0).

“This team was a good team,” Wulff said, "definitely a home-court advantage. It’s a tiny gym, really loud, really aggressive … but I can’t take anything away from the other team. They played well, they executed well and we struggled."

Garces played without sophomore outside hitter Carly Hogg, who suffered a sprained ankle midway through her team’s victory over Los Angeles-Wiseburn Da Vinci on Thursday.

“We had to make some adjustments and kind of change how we ran things,” Wulff said. “I think some nerves got to us, but overall we had some moments of really good volleyball, but we struggled quite a bit.”

After losing the first set 25-11, Garces started to find it’s stride midway through the second set and eventually ground a win to even the match at 1-1, becoming one of only two schools to win a set over the Cardinals this season. But Santa Clarita Christian rebounded nicely, and cruised through the next two sets, outscoring the Rams 50-24 along the way.

Mia D’Amato led the way for the Rams with a team-high 18 kills. She also added 16 digs. Samantha Rogers and Emma Machado had seven and five assists, respectively, and Aspen Chang finished with a team-high 27 digs for Garces. Allison Martin added 23 assists, and Laurel Magar and Melanie Haught had three blocks apiece.

“The fact that we’re one of the last four teams in our division playing in the state is amazing,” Wulff said. “I’m really proud of them. I know they’re sad right now, and that’s expected, you know the season’s over. But the fan support was awesome here, the administration was awesome and everyone came out to support us. That felt really good.”

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