"We were all pumped after we won the first game, but then we started to make mental errors that cost us," said Holy Family junior outside hitter Ashlee Sandoval, who finished with 19 digs and 16 kills. "When we start something, it's hard to finish and we never shut the door.
"We felt good when we were up, 1-0, and everybody thought we had it. We were over thinking too much instead of being calm."
Santa Clarita Christian (13-6) seized control of the match from Holy Family (12-13) and never looked back. The Cardinals, who finished third in the Heritage League, started passing the ball well and getting the timely kills to further stymie the Gaels.
"We made a lot of mistakes that cost us and we weren't down by much," said Holy Family Coach Robert Bringas, who got 29 digs and eight kills from junior outside hitter Shanelle Agito and 26 digs from junior libero Alicia Marquez. "We were trying to overcome a two-or-three-point hump.
"I can't say that we didn't put up a fight. We fell short. A couple of points here or there was the difference."
Things started off well for the Gaels in the first game. They took an 11-2 lead and made it 23-13 on a kill by Sandoval. Holy Family junior middle blocker/outside hitter Denise Patiño then closed it out with a kill.
Then the Cardinals bounced back.
Santa Clarita Christian took a 21-18 lead in the second game and evened the match on a kill by senior middle blocker Shannon Houchin.
The third game proved to be the turning point. A kill by Patiño gave the Gaels a 17-16 lead. The Cardinals then held a 24-21 lead before the Gaels got a pair of kills from Sandoval to tie the game at 24. However, Santa Clarita Christian got kills from senior outside hitter Natalie Keoshian and Houchin to put the Cardinals ahead.
The Gaels owned a 5-1 lead in the fourth game, but the Cardinals used a 14-4 run to take a 15-9 lead. Holy Family never got closer than 20-18.
"In the first game, we came out flat," said Santa Clarita Christian Coach Darcy Brown, who got a team-high nine kills from Houchin. "They controlled us.
"It was a tough match and both sides played well. We worked to keep our momentum going offensively. We played them in the summer league, but both teams probably didn't have their full teams. You don't judge that and we knew that we had to be strong."
Junior opposite hitter Aurora Aguirre finished with 11 kills for Holy Family.