Sometimes it takes a bitter defeat to make a team stronger. That was the case this year for the Windward boys volleyall squad, which rebounded from a tough five-set loss in the semifinals of the CIF playoffs to capture the Southern California Regional Division III championship.
Seeded sixth in the eight-team tournament, the Wildcats dropped only one set in three matches and wrapped up the regional title with a 25-20, 25-16, 25-20 win against No. 2-seeded North Hollywood Campbell Hall in the finals Saturday afternoon at Irvine Valley College.
The Wildcats (17-4) traveled to the San Fernando Valley to take on L.A. City Section champion Northridge Academy on Tuesday and swept the Pumas, 25-22, 25-18, 25-16. In the semifinals, Windward traveled to San Diego to meet top-seeded Francis Parker on Thursday and the Wildcats prevailed, 25-21, 15-25, 252, 25-23.
Windward and Campbell Hall split their two Alpha League meetings, with each team winning in four sets on the opponents' home floor. The Vikings were the league champions because they had one fewer loss but they had no answer for the Wildcats on Saturday.
Senior outside hitter Ryan Manoogian led Windward's attack with 13 kills and eight digs, sophomore outside hitter Drew Pion added nine kills and eight digs while older brother Chase Pion dished out 30 assists and five kills. The Wildcats built sizeable leads in the second and third sets before quelling late Campbell Hall rallies.
Outside hitter Griffin McKinzie had 11 kills and Jackon Wiley had 10 kills for the Vikings (30-8), who were swept by Ocean League winner Santa Monica in the Southern Section Division 4 semifinals on the same night the Wildcats fell to eventual champion Los Angeles Cathedral on the opposite side of the draw.
SOUTHERN CALIF. DIV. III REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Set Scores 1 2 3 -- Final
Windward 25 25 25 -- 3
Campbell Hall 20 16 20 -- 0
Records: Windward 17-4; Campbell Hall 30-8.