TEMPLE CITY – If this bout was a boxing headline, it would have had neon lights showcasing “Yu vs. Thomas” as bright as bright could be. The Rancho Christian girls’ volleyball team was looking to win their first-ever CIF Southern Section title Friday, Nov. 3, when the Eagles made the trip to Temple City for the Division 5 section championship match.

Unfortunately, Rancho Christian would have to figure out a way to contain Taylor Yu, a Stanford commit with a nation leading stat line of 611 kills, with an astonishing 11.3 kills per set during the playoffs. Of course, on the opposite end, Temple City would need to stop the dynamic duo of Savannah Thomas (averaging 5.5 kills per set) and Suzy Kemle (2.9 kills per set) who led Rancho Christian through one of their best seasons ever.

The two teams were pretty evenly matched on paper as Temple City took down No. 1 seed Ventura in the quarterfinals while Rancho Christian knocked off No. 2 seed La Reina in the second round, not to mention they pulled off a reverse sweep in five sets over Culver City to reach the final.

While they still had some fight left in them, it wasn’t enough in the finals as the Eagles fell in three straight sets, 25-20, 25-21, 3-28, taking the runner-up plaque home with them to Temecula. The win gives Temple City (18-4) their second girls’ volleyball CIF championship in school history and first since 2002.

“This was the year we kind of came together and ran our offense,” Taylor Yu said after the game.

Rancho Christian’s Sophia Duguid (17) and Laci Moss (8) can’t stop Stanford bound Taylor Yu (30) and the Temple City Rams in their Division Five championship match. Valley News/David Canales photo

Yu, who suffered a torn meniscus and sat out her entire junior year, was unbeatable. She had a match-high 35 kills with Jocelyn Hou being a big help in setting those up.

“Not only does (Yu) carry her team with her level of play, but she is also very much a leader and I love that from her,” Rancho Christian head coach Luci Villafana told the media afterwards.

For now, the great news for Rancho Christian is their season isn’t over. The Eagles received the No. 9 seed in the Division III regional bracket and will travel to face No. 9-seeded Poway Tuesday, Nov. 7. Poway reached the San Diego Section’s Division 1 semifinals. Furthermore, looking down the road, Rancho Christian returns both Thomas (2025 class), and Kemle (2026 class) next season, so expectations will be high from their top two competitors.

“I’m so proud of them,” Villafana said of all her players. “Losing hurts, but I’m just so happy our girls made history for our school. Yes, it was a tough loss but at the same time it’s a victory for us.”

Temple City keeps the title hopes of Savannah Thomas and the Rancho Christian Eagles just out of reach in their Division Five finals match Friday, Nov. 3. Valley News/David Canales photo

So, who knows what lies ahead for this resilient hometown crew and their head coach, a former CIF-SS champion herself. Villafana was not only the Division 9 ‘Player of the Year’ in 2019, but also led Cornerstone Christian to a section title that same year.

The complete roster for Rancho Christian includes Aubrey Treadway, Logan Vazquez, Mollie Tuten, Emma Parker, Savannah Thomas, Aubrey Tobias, Laci Moss, Symone Turnage, Mackenzie Duguid, Mia Welch, Charlie McLaughlin, Lily Del Valle, Brighton Richards, Adaobi Metu, Suzy Kemle, Sophia  Duguid, Ashley Bosich, and Laci Moss.


*All bracket schedules/scores for Southern Section Divisions can be found online at www.cifss.org. Visit www.cifstate.org for Regional Tournament info.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.