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Norwalk in control of Suburban League, upsets perennial powerhouse

SUBURBAN LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

By Loren Kopff

LAKEWOOD – There could be a changing of the guard at the top of the Suburban League standings when the regular season ends on Nov. 6. The Norwalk Lady Lancers, who have not won a league title in girls volleyball, are that much closer to doing so after a gritty victory at Mayfair this past Tuesday afternoon.

Norwalk edged the defending league champs 25-23, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25 to sweep the season series from the Monsoons. To put things into perspective, Norwalk had lost at least 34 straight matches to Mayfair until coming away with a five-set victory over Mayfair on Sept. 26. And since 1996, Mayfair had gone 192-12 in league action entering this season with 13 league crowns. In fact, in one stretch, Mayfair had won 113 straight league matches from 1995-2005.

“This kind of gives us a chance to take that league title,” said Norwalk head coach Jessie Gonzalez. “We’re in charge right now. At this point, it’s all up to us. We’re responsible for our own destiny right now. But definitely, this has to be the biggest win I’ve ever earned here at Norwalk.”

“I think it’s extra big because last year they went undefeated and they were league champs,” said Norwalk junior middle blocker Jazmin Guzman. “I think it gave us motivation that we beat them.”

Mayfair led only three times in the opening minutes of the first set and by no more than a point. On the other hand, the Lady Lancers were able to distance themselves from the hosts at 14-8 when sophomore libero Kathleen Perez served three points with Guzman getting consecutive kills. The team’s offensive leader would pick up eight kills in the set while senior outside hitter Viviana Gomez added another four kills.

Norwalk went wire to wire in the second set but every time it got to what it thought was a manageable lead, the Monsoons would rally. Norwalk had a pair of four-point leads early on, only to see Mayfair get back to within a point. But when Guzman’s 12th kill of the match gave her team possession, freshman outside hitter Athena Sio served four straight points, including a pair of aces. Norwalk’s biggest lead of the match came at 22-15 after freshman defensive specialist Paola Nava served an ace to conclude a four-point serving spree.

“It was all strategy,” Gonzalez said of winning the first two sets. “We had a week to prepare, so we took advantage of our time. We knew that this was going to be a good game for us. We knew that we might not have slipped. It was all preparation.”

“We knew we had to get out more and put up a block because when we didn’t, they were getting kills,” Guzman said.

Norwalk (10-6 overall, 6-1 in league) was looking for the sweep and was heading that way when an ace from senior setter Dayna Moreno tied the third set at 20-20. But back to back kills from Tyra Parrish and Linzee Guerrero gave Mayfair that edge it needed to avoid being swept.

Mayfair was leading 10-7 in the fourth set when a kill from Gomez was the beginning of six straight points posted. Guzman had a kill and a block at the tail end of that rally.

Later in the set, Norwalk had match-point twice before the Monsoons rallied for the tie. Guzman’s match-high 26th kill put the Lady Lancers up 26-25 and Guerrero’s return of a Nava serve sailed long to give Norwalk its biggest win in school history.

Gomez, who had four kills in the first set, finished with 17 kills and if the rest of the league hasn’t noticed by now, she and Guzman have become the top one-two offensive threats.

“I think we have a good connection with our setter because we don’t have anyone else,” Guzman said. “We know where to go and when she’s going to set us.”

“Viviana has to understand that the ball has to be shared a lot, especially in the early sets,” Gonzalez said. “So, she knows what it takes. She has a button she pushes or a switch she flips on when she knows it’s her time to perform.”

While Mayfair has been ranked all season long in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AAA coaches top 10 poll, beginning at No. 6 and falling two spots, and with Cerritos and La Mirada also at the bottom of the top 10 poll, Norwalk is still nowhere to be found. But Gonzalez hopes that will change sooner than later.

“I feel like it should, seeing how we’re making our presence known at this point,” he said. “But you never know. Some coaches still may not know what we’re capable of [doing]. If we’re under the radar, that’s fine. We’ve been underdogs the entire season.”

The next test will be on Tuesday when Norwalk hosts Cerritos. On Oct. 3, the Lady Dons rallied from two sets down to give Norwalk its lone league loss. Norwalk will then visit Bellflower on Thursday.

“I know Cerritos is going to be a tough game because they were tough with us last time,” Guzman said. “I think we need to use this [win] as motivation to keep coming out and win. I know we can because we beat probably one of the best teams.”

 

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