Taft Volleyball Notches Groundbreaking State Regional Victory Over Katella

WOODLAND HILLS >> Normally Taft girls volleyball coach Arman Mercado passes out packets to his players at the start of the week.

Mercado includes scouting reports of Taft’s next opponent, useful notes for his team, an inspirational quote and of course the history lesson.

They have different names for it — the “Einstein Packet,” “The Bible,” even “the Torah.” But these “Game-Day Packets” certainly carry significance for the Toreadors.

“I frame some of them,” Taft setter Gisele Pinedo said.

Wednesday’s packet might prove to be a keeper.

At 8:21 p.m. on Wednesday night, Taft became the first L.A. City Section girls volleyball team to capture a Southern California Regional victory with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-21 win over Katella in the Division IV opener.

City power Palisades had won the 1979 state title, but no City team had won a regional match in the current format until Tatyana Taitt slammed home the final kill.

“That was a good closeout — I really liked it,” Taitt said. “I was very happy my setter Gigi (Pinedo) was able to set me. I really wanted that set to close it out because closing out is so fun.

“I just want to continue playing and make history for Taft.”

Taft (26-19) rushed the court. The players shared emphatic high-fives and they could not resist hamming it up for the cameras, much like a championship celebration as the Toreadors will travel to top-seeded St. Anthony for Saturday’s Regional quarterfinal.

“There’s just so many emotions,” Taft’s Samantha Hakimi said. “We’re all very excited to win this first state game and we’re excited to move on.”

Mercado has enjoyed a banner career that included five City girls volleyball titles and two City boys volleyball titles, but the magnitude of the moment was not lost on him, particularly winning in a division that state power Marymount used to dominate on a yearly basis.

“I’m happy for our section,” said Mercado, who sported a City Section polo shirt to represent the section. “I went to Franklin High, and this was not just for us, but for everybody in our section. We were very excited for this opportunity.”

Taft had standout performances from its All-City players. Maya Steward posted 14 kills. Taitt recorded 10 kills and four blocks. Madison Pincus contributed 18 digs.

“We wanted to make a statement today for ourselves and for the City,” Steward said.

Taft also received major contributions from Samantha Hakimi (eight kills), Tabitha Hakimi (10 digs) and Pinedo (28 assists) as Taft did just enough to win.

The girls knew what was at stake, particularly from a historical perspective.

“We emphasized it almost every single day,” Tabitha Hakimi said. “I’m super excited that we get to play on Saturday.”

Katella, which lost in the CIF Southern Section Division 8 final over the weekend to Grace Brethren, received 12 kills from Gabby Meza and five kills from Mylei Vargas-Deason.
 
http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20161116/taft-volleyball-notches-groundbreaking-regional-victory-over-katella Source: Los Angeles Daily News