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Gahr sent to another first round exit, swept by La Reina

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION II-AA GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS

By Loren Kopff

When your opponent goes on scoring sprees early in a set, more times than not, it’s difficult to recover from that. This past Tuesday night, Gahr was facing an uphill battle against La Reina in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-AA first round match.

The visiting Regents had runs of 9-0 in the first set, 5-0 in the second set and 10-0 in the third set and went on to sweep the Gladiators 25-15, 25-16, 26-16. Gahr ends its season at 12-10.

“The first two sets, I was playing it calm because I was confident in my team,” said Gahr first-year head coach Iris Murray. “I thought we were going to come back. But we didn’t come back. I was confident because I know of my players’ capabilities and I know that they are able to side out quickly. Today we couldn’t. We weren’t our usual selves today.”

La Reina was leading 7-5 in the opening set before a Gahr serving error gave the Regents the serve and from there, Dani Curry put together eight straight points including five aces plus three kills from Natalie Anselmo. Gahr’s biggest rally of the set came at the end when senior outside hitter Jewelyn Sawyer had two straight kills and a block, followed by a kill from senior outside hitter Aaliyah Heckard.

The Regents, a third place representative out of the Tri-Valley League, jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the second set and led by as many as 10 points at 13-3. Gahr couldn’t put together more than three straight points at any time and were limited to nine kills in the set.

Gahr took its first lead of the match when sophomore setter Frankie DiIorio opened the third set with an ace. Moments later, a serving error put the second place representatives from the San Gabriel Valley League up 5-3. But Gahr was called for a double hit violation, followed by nine straight points served from Curry. The Gladiators closed the gap to 20-13 on an ace from junior defensive specialist Jennifer Diggs. But Curry added two more aces down the stretch to send Gahr home early for the fourth straight season and sixth in the past seven seasons. Gahr, which hosted a playoff match for the third time since 2005, has not seen the second round since 2005. In fact, since advancing to the semifinals in 2002, Gahr has won just two playoff matches.

“I’m trying to change that and I’m trying to change the culture,” Murray said of the first-round hex. “It seemed like today, before the game, we were relaxed and we were ready for the game.”

Heckard led Gahr with nine kills whole Sawyer and junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro each had eight kills. A third of La Reina’s offensive output came off of aces while Natalie Anselmo, a 5’ 7” freshman outside hitter, led the Regents with 11 kills. Curry and Laura Leap, who stands at 6’ 5”, each added five kills.

“I think we were intimidated by their height,” Murray said. “I told my team before the game that we are the more intimidating team. We need to be fearless and they need to be afraid of us.

“I think this was a fitting end to our season,” she later mentioned. “There were times this season where we were really focused and we were on and we saw success. There were also a lot of times where we were frustrated, where we had other things going on and where we were distracted. That was kind of like the game today.”

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