The Santa Monica High girls volleyball team came within one set of a section title. And that’s where it stayed.

After building an early lead in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA championship game, the Vikings stumbled in crunch time against Valley View in a demoralizing 3-2 (21-25, 26-28, 25-21, 25-23, 15-13) loss Friday night at Cerritos College.

But a runner-up finish means the season isn’t yet over for Samohi, which will host Templeton in the first round of the CIF state tournament Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner will play Saturday, Nov. 28, against either Chula Vista-Olympian or Chatsworth.

The state tournament appearance will be bittersweet for the Vikings (16-6), who appeared on the precipice of a section title after storming through Ocean League play.

Thanks in part to the offensive firepower of Brooke Earkman, they used a 12-3 surge to win the first set against Valley View and earned a commanding 2-0 lead with a narrow victory in the second frame.

But then Samohi collapsed. It dropped the third set by four points and yielded an 8-1 run to Valley View in a close fourth stanza, setting up a decisive fifth set.

The Vikings fell behind 6-1 in the abbreviated frame on several hitting errors. And although they pulled to within 9-8 thanks to standout play from the service line, they were unable to overcome their early deficit as Valley View finished off a dramatic comeback.

The loss put an end to a phenomenal section tournament for Samohi, which cruised past Lancaster in the first round and edged Irvine-North in the second round before defeating Twin Peaks-Rim of the World in the quarterfinals and sweeping San Juan Capistrano-St. Margaret’s Episcopal in the semifinals.

The Vikings now turn their attention to Templeton (28-8), a strong program hailing from San Luis Obispo County. Templeton went undefeated in the Los Padres League and reached the Division 3A section finals before falling 3-2 to San Juan Capistrano-Saddleback Valley Christian.

Templeton is led by seniors Emily Burns (255 kills, 51 aces and 18 blocks) and Lauren Ralston (251 kills and 51 aces) and junior Carra Kruse (159 assists).

Pacifica makes history

The Pacifica Christian girls cross-country team earned a bid to the state finals for the first time in school history with a runner-up performance at the CIF Southern Section championships Nov. 21 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

The Seawolves tallied 123 points in Division 5 of the section finals, finishing behind only Flintridge Prep.

Standout junior Christie Caruana led Pacifica by taking second place in 18 minutes 49.3 seconds in a race won by San Pedro-Rolling Hills Prep freshman Mazzy Genovese (18:16.9).

Also finishing in the top 40 for Pacifica were senior Joanie Howe (23rd, 20:28.9) and sophomores Rodonna Flowers (35th, 21:03.3) and Lily Reasner (36th, 21:04.1).

Meanwhile, St. Monica Catholic’s girls wrapped up their season after taking 16th place in Division 5 of the section finals. The Mariners were led by freshman Bella Fernandez (72nd, 22:59.7).

Running as an individual, Santa Monica senior Kasia Krzyzanowski placed 59th in the Division 1 race with a time of 19:49.3.

jeff@www.smdp.com