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SUBURBAN LEAGUE VOLLEYBALL
By Loren Kopff
The 2012 girls volleyball season hasn’t gone the way Cerritos head coach Khanh Vo expected thus far as His team vies for a fourth straight Suburban League title. Already, he has seen his new varsity setter break her arm before the season even started, followed by a 2-4 start with one of those victories being a forfeit win in the Gahr/Molten Volleyball Classic.
Recently, three players quit the team and Vo has had to shuffle his lineup around but the new personnel was good enough to get past Artesia 25-18, 25-18, 25-11 this past Tuesday in the league opener for both teams. The Lady Dons were led by junior outside hitter Mariah Gonzalez (18 kills), senior outside hitter Arnelle Duru (12 kills) and senior middle blocker Bali Leffall Young (nine kills).
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Vo said. “The talent, I think, is there, especially with Arnelle and Bali and Mariah. It’s just when you’re down to three instead of four or five, you have to play a little harder. When you’re a little bit balanced, then you kind of rely on your other players who are hot at that time.”
But early on, it looked as if the Pioneers (0-7 overall) would pull off the shocker. They held a 14-10 lead after an ace from senior outside hitter Faith Devera. Moments later with the score 15-13, a kill from Gonzalez gave Cerritos the serve and junior libero Rachel Fitterer reeled off five straight points, including two aces. Artesia got to within two points at 20-18, but Gonzalez had her ninth kill, then served the final four points of the set.
Artesia hung around in the second set and after falling behind 14-10 and 15-12, began to make a charge. Junior middle blocker Daisy Briseno had three straight kills and a block to put her team in front 17-15. But with the visitors leading 18-16, a serve into the net gave Gonzalez the serve and she ran off the final eight points of the set.
By now, Cerritos was gaining the momentum it was looking for from the very beginning and wasn’t challenged much in the third set, racing out to a 9-4 lead on seven straight points served from sophomore outside hitter Madison Lee.
“They just started making a decision that they had already lost,” said Artesia head coach Micah Burpo. “I think it’s the best we’ve played all year.
But the breakdown was definitely spirit.”
After Artesia scored the next four points, Cerritos put the match away when Fitterer reeled off seven consecutive points with three aces and a pair of kills each from Duru and Gonzalez. While Duru, Gonzalez and Leffall Young combined for all but five kills from the Lady Dons, it was the work of sophomore setter Kaitlyn Bales who made it possible for Cerritos to get its third overall victory. Bales had to be rushed into her new position once fellow sophomore Lorinet Marquez was lost for the season with her injury.
“She’s an athlete and a lot of coaches will train athletes,” Vo said. “Now, generally speaking you develop of lot of them at the lower levels. But I was put in a predicament where I have to train multiple setters. I just decided to go with the youth movement and at the same time train height. She’ll essentially be the future of the program in terms of the setter position.”
Artesia is also dealing with its set of issues. As been the case in the first seven matches, Briseno was the leader in kills with 17. Burpo is hoping that the return of senior middle blocker Kyla Kelly (three kills) will help the team. Then, there’s the issue of a new setter, senior Bianca Espinoza, who transferred from Cerritos but hasn’t been eligible yet.
“Huge; we have nobody else to put in the middle,” Burpo said of Kelly’s return. “She makes a big difference. After Oct. 1 when we get our setter in there, we can deliver some hittable balls. A lot of our balls are not that hittable.”
“I thought she had a great match,” Vo said of Briseno. “At the same time I thought we kind of allowed her to because volleyball is a team game. You can’t do everything by yourself and I thought when she was in the front row blocking, we made her job easy by making hitting errors.”
Cerritos will host Bellflower on Tuesday, then gets set for its first real test in league when it travels to La Mirada on Thursday. Artesia hosted Bellflower on Sept. 20 and will entertain La Mirada on Tuesday before going to Norwalk on Thursday. With Kelly and soon to be Espinoza in the lineup, Burpo is now hopeful of more wins than originally anticipated when the season began.
“I think we may be able to challenge those teams and maybe beat some of them,” Burpo said. “When we base our judgment off of Cerritos, usually being the best in the league, I do [think we can win some games]. My mindset is going to change a little bit and maybe my strategy will change a little bit.”
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