Four losses have been full of lessons for the Damien Monarchs.
Enough wisdom has been accrued from the disappointments and pain, so when they visited unbeaten defending state champion Le Jardin, the Damien squad that was 10-4 no longer existed. As of Tuesday night, with a stunning 25-22, 25-23, 19-25, 18-25, 17-15 victory at Charle B. Wang Gymnasium, the Monarchs are in position to reach new heights.
A win on Wednesday against No. 7-ranked Le Jardin would give them the tournament tile. Then Damien (11-4) could capture its first ILH D-II crown by beating LJA, the regular-season winner, one more time.
For now, though, the Monarchs are more than what they were last week, when they lost to LJA during the tournament, or a month ago, when they lost to the Bulldogs during the regular season.
“We spent a lot of time working on assignments,” Damien coach Don Faumuina said. “A lot of video study.”
With a state-tournament berth already locked up — the top four teams in ILH D-II qualify — the Monarchs easily could have been content. But they showed up and took away some of LJA’s strengths. Natalie Piper led all hitters with 30 kills, but she was challenged on every swing. All 72 of them.
It’s been a while since anyone took that many swings, perhaps going back to the 96 attempts by Sarah Palmer during the state championships around a decade ago. Piper was often times phenomenal, going cross court, piercing double blocks, ricocheting the ball off blocks. She wasn’t a machine, though. She had four hitting errors in the fourth set, matching her total in the first three, and still came up with an extra gear in the fifth set with five kills and just one hitting error.
Opposite Julia Fisher finished with 14 kills, but was under the weather. No other Bulldog had more than nine kills.
Shelby Capllonch had 25 kills for Damien, sending rocket shots all over the floor. She also had one of her team’s six aces. That was another huge factor: the Monarchs had just eight service errors and LJA had 13 service errors to go with seven aces.
“Our serving hurt us,” Bulldogs coach Lee Lamb said.
For now, all is well in Damienville, and the decibel level in Bishop Scanlan Gymnasium will likely be at an all-time high on Wednesday night.
“We’ve only lost once at home,” said Capllonch, a junior. “So we’re going to defend our home with all we’ve got.”