No. 4 – Vista Murrieta (23-11): 18-20-25-16=1

No. 2 – Palos Verdes (23-8):     25-25-20-25=3

PALOS VERDES – “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened,” noted children’s author Dr. Seuss said.

What ended on a chilly Tuesday night was a journey that will make the Vista Murrieta girls’ volleyball class of 2023 among our area’s most decorated senior classes in recent history.

Vista Murrieta, CIF State SoCal Regional girls’ volleyball runners-up. Valley News/Butch Owens photo

Claire Little, Zoe Horner, Mikayla Marich, Skylar Darr, Mallory Villareal, Lauren Ly, Bridget Robarts and Dailin Leong were part of a class that won three consecutive Southwestern League championships along with a 2019 CIF-State title as freshmen and this year’s CIF-SS division two championship.

They’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Chaparral’s class of 2004 who made back-to-back CIF-SS finals appearances (with a win in 2003), Calvary Murrieta’s class of 2008 (3 straight section title matches and won 2 from 2006-2008), the Hemet class of 2013 (4 straight section finals and won 3 times), along with Linfield Christian’s class of 2019, who won back-to-back section titles after not having made the playoffs in 9 previous seasons.

“I can’t be sad. I’m so proud of these girls for the run they took us on. It’s a testament to the way they train,” Broncos coach Ed Taitano said. “If I take away anything from this run it’s that we need to be better conditioned to handle the length of the season when you get this far. We have the right kind of student-athlete here, the right kind of attitude, and the right kind of school support to make this a regular thing here.”

Katrina Catalan and Claire Little go up for a block against Palos Verdes in the CIF State SoCal Regional Finals Tuesday, Nov. 15. Valley News/Butch Owens photo

Lauren Ly’s kill in set one closed an early Bronco deficit to 3 points at 11-8 before Palos Verdes’ Meg Walsh rattled off three straight aces (two of which just toppled over the net) to put the Sea Queens up 15-8. Kaci Demaria, who missed the last two matches due to illness, recorded a kill to end it with a 25-18 win.

After a kill by Tatum Lane pushed the Sea Queens to a 13-7 lead in set two, Vista Murrieta responded with a 6-0 run to level the set at 13 with Little accounting for 4 kills. The Broncos actually had a late lead on a combination block between Little and Katrina Catalan, which put them up 20-18, but Palos Verdes closed on a 7-0 run to win 25-20 and take the 2-0 lead. Molly Labreche had the set ending kill.

Back-to-back aces from Darr, plus a combination block between Little and Katalan, pushed Vista Murrieta to an early 18-12 lead in set 3. Then, Megan Herbert’s kill got the Broncos to the red zone with a 20-15 lead, while Madison Pulsipher and Liliana Montes combined on a block to end a 25-20 Vista Murrieta win.

“It was pretty disappointing to let that second set get away from us like it did, but we refocused and found a way to finish off the third by getting them to play at our pace,” Little said. “These girls have a bright future and I’ll be following them from afar next year.”

Walsh’s third ace of the evening gave Palos Verdes a 14-7 lead midway through the fourth set and Vista Murrieta was never able to string together a rally. A Melanie Tilles’ kill sent the Sea Queens to Friday’s CIF State championship match.

Little, a BYU signee, finished her 3 years at Vista Murrieta with 1,438 career kills which is 475 away from the area career record shared by Tesa Oaks (Woodcrest Christian/CBU) and Krista Van Sant (Redlands East Valley/University of Washington).

Derryl Trujillo can be reached via email at socaltrekkie@gmail.com.