TEMECULA — A remarkable individual performance by BYU-bound outside hitter Claire Little carried the Vista Murrieta girls volleyball team for the majority of Monday evening’s big Southwestern League showdown against Temecula Valley.
In the end, however, it was a team effort that helped the Broncos reach the finish line.
Little registered a career-high 38 kills, and Vista Murrieta had four blocks in the fifth game as the Broncos rallied multiple times for a 21-25, 25-16, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12 victory to remain undefeated in league play.
Vista Murrieta (6-6, 3-0 in league) faced a 5-0 deficit in the fifth set, but the Broncos put together a 12-3 run to take control of the game. Lilliana Montes had three kills, a solo block and three block assists in the last set.
“We made a matchup change in that last set and put Lilli back in the middle,” Vista Murrieta coach Ed Taitano said. “We tried not to focus on the scoreboard and just play point to point. They settled down and fought.”
Vista Murrieta played in the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas over the weekend, and the Broncos were battling some fatigue Monday evening. Little took 78 swings in the match and only had seven attacking errors, three of those coming in the final set.
“I’m shot,” Little said with a laugh. “I’m a little speechless. I really can’t explain how much that took to win.”
Temecula Valley (6-4, 1-2) was swept by Murrieta Valley last week, but the Golden Bears have proven they can hang with some of the best squads in the state. Earlier this month at the Dave Mohs Tournament, Temecula Valley took a set off of Marymount and also gave Cathedral Catholic, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, one of its tougher matches of the season.
“For us right now, I believe it’s a matter of finding our best lineup,” Temecula Valley coach Neemias Costa said. “That’s still a work in progress.”
While Little shouldered the load on the other side of the net, the Golden Bears used a balanced offensive attack to get out to a strong start. All five of Temecula Valley’s attackers had two or three kills during the opening set. Maddy Snow led the way for the Golden Bears with three kills, and she also served up two of the team’s five aces.
Little caught fire at the end of the first set and carried the momentum into the second game. During one stretch, she registered a kill on 11 consecutive swings. Vista Murrieta went on an 18-4 run during that set to level the match.
Temecula Valley’s ball control was exceptional throughout the match, and that helped setter Mackenzie Brack spread the ball around. Ashlyn Beaver and Snow combined for nine kills to help the Golden Bears pull out the third set.
“Our passing has been a strength,” Costa said. “We just have to match the timing of the offense with the passing.”
Vista Murrieta grabbed a 5-1 lead in the fourth game, but Temecula Valley answered with a 12-5 run to surge ahead. Vista Murrieta countered with a 10-1 run to regain control. Little had three kills during that important stretch.
Hailey Frary’s solo block gave Temecula Valley a 5-0 lead in the decisive set. Montes, who was quiet offensively for much of the match, came alive with three of her four kills in that 12-3 run. Montes also teamed with Little, Horner and Katrina Catalan for blocks, and Montes capped that big run with a solo block.
Beaver had 17 kills to lead the way for Temecula Valley, and Snow added 13 kills for the Golden Bears.