ORANGE >> The Campolindo girls volleyball team had an answer for nearly everything Vista Murrieta threw its way Friday night. But the Cougars never solved Claire Little.
Little, the 6-foot-2 freshman outside hitter already committed to BYU, registered 30 kills — tied for the 12th most in CIF State championship history — as Vista Murrieta defeated Campolindo 20-25, 30-28, 25-21, 25-22, to capture the Division I state championship.
Vista Murrieta became the second Riverside County school to win a state championship in girls volleyball, joining Southwestern League member Temecula Valley, which won this title last season. It’s the school’s third state title (boys track and field in 2015 and 2016).
Little had half of Vista Murrieta’s kills in the match, and she finished with only five errors for a remarkable .490 attacking percentage. Little had 11 kills in the second set to help the Broncos pull off a stunning comeback and added nine more in the fourth. And for the third consecutive match, Little also had the honor of delivering the match-winning kill.
“She was an absolute beast,” Campolindo coach John Vuong said following the match.
Little said any nerves she was experiencing early in the match quickly went away.
“I noticed we weren’t playing with same kind of energy at the beginning of the match,” Little said. “So, I just tried to do everything possible to try to get everyone pumped up.”
Vista Murrieta (25-11) started the match strong, opening a 14-6 lead on the Cougars. However, that advantage quickly disappeared as the errors rose. The Broncos finished the set with twice as many kills as Campolindo, but also made 17 more errors (19-2).
“Slow starts have been our M.O. at times this season,” Broncos coach Ed Taitano said. “It took until the back end of that second set for us to really gain complete confidence.”
Campolindo was on the verge of taking a two-set lead, as it reached set point at 24-19. Vista Murrieta rattled off five consecutive points, two on aces by libero Chloe Scheer, to draw even. The Broncos took the set following service and hitting errors by Campolindo.
“I think we all did a good job coming together, taking deep breaths and winning one point at a time,” said junior setter Molly Wilson, who led the team with 34 assists and 15 digs.
The third set was another roller-coaster, as Vista Murrieta jumped to an 11-5 lead only to watch Campolindo go on a 11-4 run. Juliette Russell and Layla Cederlind combined on a block to put Vista Murrieta up 23-22, and Reka Monteleone and Russell delivered kills.
Campolindo held leads of 5-0 and 10-5 in the fourth set, but Vista Murrieta dug in its heels for the comeback. Little and Russell carried the offense in that set, combining for 14 kills for the Broncos. Little delivered three straight kills to secure the championship.
“When we got to 24 and knew we one more point to be state champs, that was one the best feelings in the world,” said Cederlind, one of the team captains. “We have come so far as a team this season, and to achieve that goal, especially as a senior, is amazing.”
While Little took a starring role Friday, Taitano used 14 players throughout the match.
“It’s accepting that you can’t do it by yourself,” Taitano said. “Sometimes you need a little help, and we’re a family and have plenty of players who can step in there and fill a role.”