St. John's began competing in volleyball only six years ago. In that time, the Cadets had not advanced past the quarterfinals in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament. Nor had the team ever been the top seed in the North Division heading into the tournament.

All that changed this season. St. John's capped its turnaround yesterday with the school's first WCAC title after a 25-9, 25-19, 27-25 victory over visiting Holy Cross. When senior outside hitter Jourdan Dozier's kill hit the floor, a raucous crowd of supporters streamed onto the center of the court to celebrate a new beginning for the program.

"It's like the big payback," said senior setter Allison Way, who paced the Cadets (16-3) with a game-high 20 assists. "I can't believe it, but I can believe it. It's such an emotional moment."

After a three-game slump in early October, the Cadets won seven consecutive matches en route to the title. St. John's never dropped a game during its three matches in the tournament, including a 3-0 victory over defending champion Elizabeth Seton in the semifinals on Friday.

The Cadets dominated Holy Cross (13-5) with stellar defense and the front-line play of 6-foot-2 sisters Jourdan and Kristen Dozier. Senior defensive specialist Jarin Watson had 28 digs, leading four players in double digits in that category. Senior Laura Peterson added 26 digs, and Jourdan Dozier and Jessica Cornejo had 23 and 18, respectively.

"The defensive effort kept us in it for the entire season," Way said. "Passing is what made this team. I'm so appreciative to have such an intense back line. Holy Cross is such a good defensive team that we know we had to play as well defensively to win."

With solid passing, the Cadets were able to take advantage of the Dozier sisters' height on the front line. Kristen led St. John's with 14 kills and Jourdan added 12.

"It's a big advantage," Kristen Dozier said of her height. "Teams know we have a big front line, and its going to be tough to stop us."

Added Holy Cross Coach Ricky Sorlouangsana: "Definitely, the two sisters are so dominant. I was telling my team we had to block them. You just can't leave one of them alone."

Down two games to none, Holy Cross nearly took the third game. But with the score tied at 22, the Dozier sisters combined for five kills to put away the Tartans and give St. John's the championship.