BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — It wasn't going to happen on this team's watch.
No way was this Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls volleyball team going to be the first to lose a Santa Cruz League match in six years.
Keeping the streak alive was a focus of this year's Guards squad, and the girls delivered.
Bell-Jeff defeated St. Anthony in four sets, 25-16, 12-25, 25-21, 25-22, at home Tuesday to clinch its seventh consecutive Santa Cruz League title. The Guards have also won 52 consecutive leagues matches, dating back to 2006.
"That was probably the most important thing of our league was to go out there and win it again," said Bell-Jeff senior Taryn Nelson. "It's definitely one of the biggest goals that we've had. You don't want to be the team that breaks that streak."
Going into Tuesday's match, the Guards (16-9-1, 8-0 in league) had already clinched a tie for the league title with St. Anthony (16-6, 6-2). But a combination of practicality in securing a higher playoff seed and pride in keeping the streak alive until 2013 provided enough motivation.
"We want to make sure we don't want to share the championship with anybody," Bell-Jeff Coach Miguel Segura said.
The win didn't come easy. After taking the first game going away, the Guards slowed up in the second game, as the Saints tied the contest at 1
"We kind of relaxed going into it," Nelson said of the second game "We didn't play our best that game. We came back."
The Guards actually fell behind in the third game, 8-3, and 10-6 before rallying for the win.
"We lost our mental game in the second game," Segura said. "I had to remind them that they're not going to give up. No way is a top-five team every going to give up, especially when they have a chance to win a league championship. They just had to realize that and get their mental game back and they started pushing again."
Though close throughout, Bell-Jeff led most of the decisive fourth game, scoring the final three points for the victory.
Nelson had 11 kills and teammate Natalie Bravo added 9 kills. Amanda Maalouf dished 22 assists and Victoria Rodarte contributed 12 digs.
Bell-Jeff never really got into its offense, but benefited from solid serving performances from Nelson, who had four aces, and Maalouf, who had three.
"Our service was big time, because our passing wasn't where it needed to be, so it was big time to get those aces," Segura said.