By Ray Hamill — The wait is finally over.
On Saturday night, the St. Bernard’s Crusaders ended a 37-year-old North Coast Section championship drought for the H-DNL in volleyball, securing this year’s Division-6 championship with a straight sets win over California Crosspoint in Eureka.
Not since the 1986 McKinleyville Panthers took home a Class A pennant has the league tasted NCS success in the sport and the 2023 Crusaders became just the third league team ever to win a section crown.
“It’s incredible,” head coach Wendy Joyner said of the achievement. “They broke the cycle of 37 years.”
The SB girls, who were seeded No. 1 in their bracket, capped a dominating run through the section tournament with a 25-17, 26-24, 25-16 victory.
They did not drop a set in three postseason matches.
“It’s so cool,” said Joyner, who suspected this team was capable of doing great teams when the players came together for their first practice back in August. “This group of girls is special to me and I knew from day one of practice this team could go far.”
The section championship follows an undefeated league campaign, and the Crusaders aren’t done yet.
Next week, they’ll begin play in the NorCal playoffs.
Shanahan finished with a team-high 14 kills, while the ever-improving Fonrtenot added seven kills and Tupua set up her teammates for success with 27 assists.
Freshman Brittyn Ikeya and juniors Ella Hart and Nina Clayton all served well in the win, while Jocelyn Sundberg had some key blocks.
Check out the home support and the postgame celebrations below …
“All the girls played their roles,” said Joyner, who added “and the girls off the bench went in and did what they were asked to do.”
Even the home crowd played a key role, with a packed student section making their voices heard throughout before storming the court to congratulate the players at the end of the match.
“The crowd was very supportive the whole game,” the head coach said. “When they stormed the court after the final point, that’s just how SB does it.”
The NorCal brackets and seeds will be announced on Sunday.
Along with McKinleyville’s 1986 success, Ferndale, which won an NCS volleyball championship in 1976, is the only other H-DNL school to win a section championship in the sport.