By Michael Bower
For five straight seasons the Poway High girls volleyball team had to watch somebody else celebrate a trip to the CIF San Diego Section Division I championship game.
But this year it was Poway’s turn to go crazy.
The second-seeded Titans finally got over what many on the team refer to as “The Semifinal Curse,” sweeping No. 6 Eastlake 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 28-26) Wednesday night to advance to their first CIF San Diego Section Division I finals since winning it all in 2003.
“It is such a great feeling to know that we broke that curse,” said Poway setter Kelsey Horvath, who tallied 33 assists in the match. “It is also an honor because we all know the girls from the past years that lost. We fought hard for them and we worked hard all season to get here and we did it.”
The Titans fell to La Costa Canyon in the semifinals for four straight years from 2007 to 2010, and then lost to Rancho Buena Vista in last season’s Division I semifinal match.
The next challenge facing Poway will be the toughest test of all, defending section champion and No. 1 Torrey Pines. The two will meet Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Cathedral Catholic High. The Falcons have already beaten the Titans twice in Palomar League play, 3-0 and 3-1. But Horvath believes Poway will give them a good fight for the title.
“I think we have a chance to beat them,” she said. “We always play our best volleyball against them. We know they are good, but we always put up a fight. We are ready.”
Poway’s hitters were certainly ready to go in the semifinal, especially senior Blair Ehrlich. The team captain continued her phenomenal play in the postseason, registering a team-high 18 kills. She scored four of the last five Titans’ point in the match-clinching third game.
“I definitely wanted the ball,” Ehrlich said about the end of the third game. “I was like, ‘Kelsey, set me.’ I knew what I wanted to do and I definitely wanted to win.”
After never trailing in Game 1 or 2, Eastlake showed plenty of fight in Game 3. Poway trailed 24-22 before rallying for two straight points to tie it at 24. Eastlake’s Lauren Gomez then scored a kill to make it 25-24, but that is when Horvath started to feed Ehrlich.
“That is my go-to girl right there,” Horvath said.
Ehrlich tied it at 25 with a crosscourt smash and then put Poway ahead 26-25 with another kill. Gomez answered for Eastlake with a kill to tie it at 26, but back came Ehrlich with a kill after another feed from Horvath. Eastlake had a net violation on the next point to set off the celebration in the Poway gym.
“We are really happy with winning the semifinals,” Ehrlich said, “but that is over now and we have to focus on the next test. It is even bigger, and that is what we really want.”
Junior middle blockers McKenzie Hall and Kendall Sieber also played well for the Titans. Hall had eight kills and scored two more on blocks. Sieber posted three kills and also played solid defense at the net.