Central Valley Christian High, in a run that produced 14 Central Section girls volleyball titles in the past 20 years, had never run into a player quite like Breana Runnels.
The Colorado State-bound senior produced 25 kills, none of them coming cheap, and four aces to lead top-seeded Independence to a 25-13, 25-19, 25-22 sweep of the second-seeded and defending champion Cavaliers in the Division II final Saturday at West Hills College-Lemoore.
Runnels smashed kills from the front row and back, with CVC rarely having an answer.
“She’s an incredible player,” Cavaliers defensive specialist Paige Calvin said. “We did all we could, but things didn’t turn out.”
Runnels had seven kills and three aces as the Falcons (26-8) overcame a 12-7 deficit in the third set to win the school’s second section title, according to historian Bob Barnett. Independence captured the D-III title in 2011.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete, the kind of kid I could play with,” first-year Cavaliers coach Sarah Oskam said. “She’s the kind of kid who is hard to practice for. We don’t have anyone who jumps like that or hits like that.”
CVC (29-14) played Independence close in the first set, tying the match 10-10 early before the Eagles went on an 11-1 run to take control. The Cavaliers also had an 18-18 tie in the second set before Independence pulled away.
“We had moments of believing we could do it,” Oskam said. “Then Independence would step it up a notch and we couldn’t match it.”
CVC won section titles each of the past two years, also winning in D-III in 2013.
Then this offseason, former Cavaliers star Meghan Warkentin stepped down as coach after winning section titles in four of her five seasons. And CVC graduated a pair of Division I college recruits in Lindsey Calvin and Veronica Nederend.
But the Cavaliers remained among the section’s volleyball elite behind college recruits Hailey Hilvers (Fresno Pacific) and Hannah Fluegel (Baylor).
Hilvers finished with 10 kills and Fluegel had 26 assists. CVC also received nine kills and nine digs from Sara Vander Poel.
“I’m so proud of the girls, especially after the seniors we’ve lost the last two years and our coaching change,” Oskam said. “We didn’t meet our goal of winning a Valley title, but they exceeded my expectations of what we could accomplish.”
Independence advances to the CIF Southern California Regionals, which begin Tuesday. Playoff pairings will be announced Sunday.