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Girls' volleyball: Cari Klein keeps Marymount on the rise

December 2, 2012 |  7:50 pm

_B271713Los Angeles Marymount is a private all-girls Catholic school located across the street from UCLA. Over the years, it has spawned a proud athletic tradition, particularly in volleyball.

Despite a student enrollment less than 400, the Sailors routinely take on _ and defeat _ schools five times Marymount's size. What's the secret? One need look no further than Coach Cari Klein, once a standout prep and college player herself who understands what is required to win at the highest level.

Since taking over the program in 1998, all Klein has done is pilot Marymount to nine CIF titles, seven Southern California regional crowns and six state championships. Klein's career winning percentage is above .900, a remarkable record  considering the Sailors duck no opponents and schedule the toughest tournaments.

On Saturday, Marymount achieved its greatest triumph by downing Sacramento St. Francis in four sets at Concordia University to capture its first Division I state championship. It culminated a season in which the Sailors won their third straight CIF title and first in 1AA, the Southern Section's highest division. Their first state title was in Division III in 1991 under Alvin Lamarre and the next five were Division IV titles under Klein. Before moving up to Division 1AA for the sectional playoffs this fall, Marymount won back-to-back 1A titles against Redlands East Valley and Corona del Mar.

A trademark of Klein's teams is their steady improvement throughout the season. Take this year, for example. Despite falling to Redondo Union twice earlier in the year, Marymount beat the Sea Hawks twice in 10 days in the section and regional playoffs. Being in the highest division against the largest schools in the Southland hasn't sunk the Sailors' ship. In fact, they've embraced the challenge.

The Sailors lost to Palo Alto, 17-15, in the fifth set in the Division I state final last year and their goal this season was to get back to the state finals and win it. They learned from that missed opportunity, used it as motivation and proved that playing for a tiny school doesn't mean that you can't win big. 

-- Steve Galluzzo

Photo: Coach Cari Klein has turned tiny Marymount High School into a volleyball powerhouse. Credit: Steve Galluzzo / For The Times