SAN JOSE -- After two subpar seasons by its high standards, the Archbishop Mitty girls volleyball team was determined to get back to the top. Tuesday night, the Monarchs took the most significant step yet toward their ultimate mission -- a state championship.
Mitty needed only an hour to win the CIF Northern California Division II title, cruising past visiting El Camino of Sacramento 25-11, 25-16, 25-22.
The victory was Mitty's 37th without a loss this season and sends the Monarchs to the Division II state final Saturday in Irvine against Martin Luther King of Riverside.
El Camino finished 35-6.
Clare Powers (15 kills) and Allie Wheeler (13 kills) led Mitty's power-hitting attack, and Kelsey Crawford added 44 assists.
"It feels awesome," Wheeler said. "I'm so excited. All of our hard work has really paid off. We've been improving so much over the year."
Mitty won back-to-back state and national titles before losing 12 matches in each of the past two seasons. But the Monarchs returned to prominence this fall behind a well-balanced rotation and players who had never experienced moments such as Tuesday's.
The nation's second-ranked team made it look easy Tuesday, dominating an opponent it swept in two games Oct. 20 in the final of the Stockton Classic.
Mitty built a quick four-point lead early in the first game, forcing El Camino to take a timeout.
The Monarchs continued to apply the pressure,
The second game wasn't much better for El Camino as Mitty's big hitters -- Powers, Wheeler, Shirin Tooloee -- kept pounding the ball over the net.
El Camino pulled to within 23-22 in the third game, but then Wheeler blasted a kill, and Tooloee closed out the match with another kill.
Mission accomplished. Mitty was heading back to the ultimate match.
"It's amazing," Powers said. "This is what we've been working for every single day in practice, to go to state. And now we have the opportunity to go to state. I believe that we work harder than any team in the whole country. We deserve this, and I am so proud of everyone."
Mitty coach Bret Almazan-Cezar said his team executed its game plan nicely against El Camino.
"They're a wonderful team, and they do interesting stuff," Almazan-Cezar said, "and we were able to stop what they do."
Asked about leading another team to the state final, the coach said, "I'm really thrilled for this team because none of them has been there."