Since Summit Shasta and Nueva School arrived on the Peninsula volleyball scene, they have been jockeying for position atop the small-school Private School Athletic League.
For the past two seasons, however, Summit Shasta has been creating some daylight. After the two teams shared PSAL co-championships in 2018 and ’19, Summit Shasta earned its first outright league title by running the table in PSAL Bay Division play last season.
With a 25-23, 25-19, 25-20 sweep at home Wednesday over Nueva, the Black Bears (4-0 PSAL Bay, 19-4 overall) have now won 15 straight league matches dating back to 2019. The rivals entered play tied for first place in the PSAL Bay, with Summit Shasta now taking control near the halfway point of the league slate.
“They’re not scared … and they’re willing work hard,” Summit Shasta head coach Gil Gilberstadt said. “They want to play, and they just want to be on the court.”
The hard work paid off in the form of a blistering comeback. Nueva (3-1, 6-3) jumped out to an early advantage in the opening set, holding leads of 14-7, 17-11 and 22-17. The challenge for Summit was finding its footing without one of its top players, senior libero Zoey Dea, who was absent due to a college visit.
Once the Black Bears settled in with senior Madison Aranda donning the libero’s jersey, and sophomore Cecilia Chow converting from her normal setter position to a defensive specialist role, the comeback took on a life of its own. Summit closed it to 22-21 on a service ace by freshman Bianca Flores. Then, after Nueva forced a side-out on one of Summit’s 28 field errors of the match, the Black Bears finished on a 4-0 run, with a left-side kill by junior Lauren Villareal to force set point, followed by an ace by senior Chloe Young to finish off Game 1.
Summit totaled 11 match aces, including five in the opening set.
“We’re aggressive servers,” Gilberstadt said. “We practice that every day. That’s our bread and butter.”
Nueva rode the left-side attack of outside hitter Isabella Yalif. The senior was a force, recording a match-high 15 kills.
Summit countered with a pick-six attack, utilizing half a dozen different hitters who were equally effective. While Nueva totaled 23 team kills in the match, with more than half of those off the arm of Yalif, the Black Bears racked up 37 team kills, with 36 of them distributed between six players.
Freshman Amelia Lehauli paced Summit with nine kills, while senior Milise Havili added seven, Jadine DelosSantos and Cheyenne Byrd had six apiece, and Flores and Villareal each scored four.
“We may have started a little slower,” DelosSantos said. “However, that does not change the fact that we still won that set and we came back in the end of the set. I feel like we shut them down pretty nicely in the first set. It was obviously a team effort. I feel like everybody contributed to that win.”
Nueva freshman libero Sakura Tsutsui anchored a spirited defensive performance for the Mavericks, and along with Yalif’s stellar back-row defense forced Summit to spread its shots around. But in Game 2, the Black Bears began feasting through the middle, with Byrd, the sophomore, slamming four kills in the set.
And Summit’s defense adjusted to Yalif’s swings, forcing the senior’s attempts to the middle of the court and holding her to two Game 2 kills. An early pancake dig by Summit junior Sofia Dilig prolonged a rally that ended in a Nueva double contact to give the Black Bears a 9-5 lead. Then to make it 16-11, Summit was flying all over the court with one-handed bump saves by Byrd and Young before the point ended on one of Nueva’s 24 field errors in the match.
In Game 3, Yalif moved to the right side and enjoyed her most productive set of the match. It was also the Mavericks’ most competitive, as they led as late as 15-14 — as Yalif swung over to the left pin for a rocket kill — and kept it close as late as 22-20 before Summit finished on a 5-0 run.
“Isabella is amazing,” said Leo Pasquali, Nueva’s first-year head coach. “Isabella is a leader on our team, she has amazing experience, all the time she is always speaking to the girls. For me as a coach, I’m so happy to have a player like this.”
Ultimately, Nueva’s serve receive was unable to keep pace with Summit’s varied and effective service performance.
“The serve was the difference — always, always,” Pasquali said.
Lehauli, an impressive looking freshman, finished out the match with a pipe shot to the back line to force match point, before stepping to the service line to rattle off her second match ace.
“She’s actually very mature,” Gilberstadt said. “She still needs some skills but at the same time, she knows what she’s doing. She’s very strong, she’s very positive, and we love her to death.”