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Drought Declared Deceased

CROWNING MOMENT: Left to right, Maddie Kaufman (white jersey), Erin Hill (16), Keila Barra (2), Leela Anvekar (9), Hanna Wang (hidden) and Caitlin Nguyen (3) celebrate a point during Tuesday’s title-clinching match. Photo by Alexis Anvekar

The 28-year wait ended on Tuesday afternoon at 4:42 p.m., the celebration of the moment rather underwhelming, especially when compared to the magnitude of the accomplishment. For it was then that San Marino High School’s girls’ varsity volleyball team swept La Cañada by scores of 25-22, 25-21 and 25-12 before a raucous crowd in Dingus Memorial Fieldhouse to secure the school’s first Rio Hondo League championship in that sport since 1990.

Jenna Dizon and Erin Loyd captained that 1990 squad, but it was their long-ago coach who just might have provided a little incentive for the 2018 team to clinch the title. Cynthia Chubbuck, still a respected science teacher at San Marino High School, decided to drop by a recent practice to teach a little history lesson.

“I had been plowing through the yearbooks to figure out when the last championship was,” Chubbuck said Wednesday morning. “I decided to write a letter to [head Coach] Joe [Rios] and then thought I should go talk to Joe. Then I decided I would go talk to the girls.”

Although it was in Chubbuck’s words “one of the last 100º days of the year,” the former coach—whose career spanned the years of 1987-96 and included Rio Hondo League titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990—donned her SMHS letter jacket while explaining the importance of the moment.

It worked.

La Cañada was never really in Tuesday’s match as the Lady Titans improved to 9-0, 16-4 overall.

INCENTIVE: Former Coach Cynthia Chubbuck showed the team her letter jacket with its three championship pins.

“It feels great to see San Marino volleyball back,” said Chubbuck, who watched Tuesday’s game from her typical vantage point on the upper east landing. “We have had promising teams in the past, but they have just never put it together like this group has. This team is fun to watch.”

Proving you can take the coach out of the game but you can never take the game out of the coach, Chubbuck even provided some post-match analysis.

“I think the big difference between the two teams was passing,” Chubbuck stated. “San Marino’s was excellent and La Cañada’s were off the mark, which makes it difficult for La Cañada’s hitters to get the sets San Marino’s girls were getting.”

Chubbuck said she is happy she made the decision to drop by practice.

“This program means a lot to me,” she said. “To see them win the league championship outright is a proud moment for the high school. It had been a long time. And to do it three-oh? I don’t think we ever swept them like that.”

Rios admitted to having a little case of the pre-game jitters, but an extremely efficient performance by the Lady Titans provided immediate relief.

“I was nervous, I have to admit it,” Rios chuckled. “There were some very important things on the line. But as far as the match is concerned, I thought we played very well. I was most impressed by our performance in the third set when we had the will power and the focus to clean them out.”

Coach Joey Rios has a private moment

Senior Keila Barra led the team with 13 kills, followed by sophomore Erin Hill, who added a dozen. Sophomore Leela Anvekar added four blocks and was a difference maker at the net.

“I’m just glad she is on my side,” Rios said.

Three players does not a championship make and the aforementioned trio had plenty of help.

Hanna Wang had an excellent game on her senior night,” said Rios. “Aside from her fine setting, she led the team with five aces. Senior outside hitter Morgan Wong put together yet another consistent performance and middle blocker Lauren Eriksen occupied the Spartans all afternoon. Defensive specialists Conner Sund and Caitlyn Nguyen were on point and libero Madison Kaufman provided solid passing and timely second setting to pace the Lady Titans.

Though just a sophomore, Hill has added the presence of a well-rounded athlete who excels at all facets of the game. At 5’11,” she can handle herself at the net, in the back row and at the service line, where she delivers punishing jump serves.

“I know that winning a league championship has been one of our goals for a while,” Hill said. “It’s very exciting. This was a really big moment and it was great to get it done this year. There is a lot of motivation to win [Wednesday] night to get that 10-0 record. And we hope to carry the momentum into the playoffs.”

Chubbuck’s visit “really put things into perspective,” Hill told The Tribune. “We have been told so many times that it has been a ong time since our last championship. But to see someone who has actually been there put it into perspective. It was really cool and gave us all a more personal reason to win.”

Rios shared the sentiment.

“I am really happy,” said Rios. “I am also very grateful to Coach Chubbuck, speaking to the team and showing us her letter jacket. It is obvious that San Marino has a lot of deep-rooted history in the sport of volleyball. A lot of people have already contacted me to congratulate the team on the win. The ripples go way out.”

The Lady Titans traveled to South Pasadena on Wednesday evening for the final Rio Hondo League contest of the season and it’s no throwaway.

“I am not going to feel complete until we get the tenth win,’ Rios concluded.

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