For nearly two months, the Glendale High School girls’ volleyball team had not experienced the bitter taste of defeat.
In fact, they might not know what that feels like until next season.
Throughout the postseason, the Nitros have rolled through every playoff opponent, culminating in their first CIF Southern Section title and a spot in the state tournament as the No. 1-seeded team.
Glendale’s historic run stretched all the way to the CIF State Division IV Championship match, with Northern California counterpart Marin Academy standing in the way of the Nitros’ eternal glory.
The Nitros did what they’ve done for the past two months: win.
Glendale secured the title by defeating Marin Academy of San Rafael in four games, 25-17, 25-22, 19-25, 25-19, at Santiago Canyon College on Nov. 18.
“Needless to say, this has been a dream for our team,” Glendale coach Marji Keyfauver said. “I don’t think we really thought seriously about it until we won CIF and started climbing throughout the state playoffs.
“Even when we get down a few points … there is that belief that no matter what, we could always come back and we always did. Four matches went to four sets, everything else was 3-0. Our goal today was to have a mind of a goldfish and just forget the previous set, whatever happened, and just keep focusing on the next set ahead of us.”
The Nitros entered the state tournament as the top seed in Division IV after winning the CIF Southern Section Division VI crown earlier this month. Marin Academy was the No. 2-seeded team from Northern California.
The championship victory marked Glendale’s first 40-win season in program history and concluded an impressive 33-match win streak that began in mid-September following a Pacific League loss against Crescenta Valley High.
“We had a very serious and long team discussion about where we wanted to go and what we needed to do to fix our team,” said Keyfauver following Glendale’s match against their “archrivals.”
“I think all the girls took that conversation to heart because we did not lose a match after that at all.”
Taking control from the start, Glendale opened the first set with a 7-2 scoring run, leading Marin Academy to call an early timeout. The Nitros maintained their advantage, as junior Aleina Manaois played a pivotal role with six kills in the first set alone — more than all of Marin Academy’s attackers combined. Manaois finished with a match-high 28 kills, 21 digs, four aces and two assists.
“I just wanted to stay resilient and really just be present with my team,” Manaois said.
The second set saw intense competition, featuring 16 ties and six lead changes. Glendale managed to break away late in the set with a 6-2 scoring run, capped by an ace from junior Emerson Whiting for a 23-20 Glendale lead. Whiting finished with 49 assists, four digs, two aces and one kill. Although Marin Academy narrowed the gap to one point, Manaois secured a 25-22 victory for Glendale with a decisive kill and ace, handing the Nitros a 2-0 game advantage.
Marin Academy rebounded in the third set and jumped out to a 10-5 lead, forcing Glendale to call its first timeout. Marin Academy kept their momentum throughout the third game to win, 25-19, and cut the overall match deficit to 2-1.
The fourth set mirrored the closely-contested nature of the previous two, with both teams trading points until the score reached 9-9. Glendale junior Mika Valiente’s kill broke the deadlock and sparked a 6-1 scoring run that would set up the Nitros for victory. An error by Marin Academy handed Glendale the win and the state title. Valiente finished with seven kills and one assist.
Freshman Eileen Herrera racked up 25 digs, 17 kills, two assists, one ace and one block, while senior Arianna Vargas contributed 21 digs and one assist. Junior Breanna Cuellar tallied seven digs, three kills and one block, while junior Loveneet Kaur produced one kill, one assist and one dig. Junior Kiana Canales recorded two aces and one dig, while junior Erin Freeman had two digs.
“I don’t think we’ve had time to process this whole journey,” Keyfauver said. “It’s been just continuous since we started playoffs over a month ago. I didn’t want to focus on the winning streak, I didn’t want to focus on the wins at all — that was not part of our dialogue ever. I think it is going to take a little bit of time for us to process all of this and truly appreciate everything that these young women achieved because it is remarkable what they’ve done.”
As for the Nitros’ next move, a trip to Disneyland could be on the itinerary.
“We’re state champions. We can do what we want,” Keyfauver said.
First published in the November 25 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.