By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
The South Pasadena Redemption Tour is about to reach its dramatic apex.
After suffering a heartbreaking early exit from the Southern Section playoffs, the Tigers team has rebounded in spectacular fashion. The success continued Tuesday night at home, with an impressive 25-10, 25-18, 16-25, 25-22 win over Palm Desert, to win the CIF State Div. III Southern California regional title.
The victory earns the Tigers a berth in the CIF State Championships on Saturday, and a chance to become tops in California.
The final will be played at Santiago Canyon College in Orange, against Northern Cal champion Lowell of San Francisco. The match is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
In only her second year as head coach, Ivy Chew has guided the South Pas girls to heights never realized in the school’s history.
“When I first came in, my first goal was to build this team as a family. That helps us become better as a team,” Chew said after Tuesday’s win. Following the early ouster from the Southern Section playoffs, she encouraged her girls to reset, both emotionally and strategically.
“I told them we need to turn the page, that we had more chances and more to accomplish,” she explained.
Chew said a key part to the Tigers’ team cohesion is their mental strength, praising the efforts of team sports psychologist Lexis Evans. The Tigers meditate prior to each match.
South Pas appeared to have Tuesday’s match well in hand from the outset, jumping out to early leads in the first two sets and taking a 2-0 advantage to the stunned amazement of the Palm Desert players and supporters.
The visitors fought back, however, regrouping after trailing 9-5 in the third set and closing the gap to two sets to one.
South Pas, perhaps giving in to some of the excitement of the moment, had begun to make careless errors – long serves and smashes that failed to clear the net – and the fourth frame saw the several ties and lead changes.
The Tigers regained their focus, thanks to three straight kills by outside little Lola Foord and two service streaks by junior libero Lindsey Hirano, to close out the fourth set and secure the win.
“Mentally, I think we broke down and lost focus in the third,” said Hirano, who finished with 21 digs and an ace. “That’s something we need to work on for the final. When we get there Saturday, we can’t make those mental mistakes.”
The home-crowd advantage was in full effect on Tuesday, with a capacity crowd thundering with support for their hometown Tigers.
Chew said her team will prepare for Saturday’s state final by focusing on all that has gotten them to this unprecedented level in program history.
“We’ll keep practicing, work on staying consistent and not let the little things break down like they did in the third set tonight, and get ready to bring our A game on Saturday,” she said.