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Suburban League champion Norwalk barely breaks a sweat against Eastside in CIF Playoffs

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III-AA GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS

By Loren Kopff

The Norwalk girls volleyball team had waited 14 years to host a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section divisional playoff match. With such a long delay, one would think a team like the Lady Lancers would be a bit rusty.

Hardly the case as the first-time Suburban League champions breezed past Lancaster-based Eastside 25-11, 25-13, 25-9 this past Tuesday night in a Division III-AA first round match. It was the school’s first playoff victory since defeating Ocean View in 1994 and third in school history. Norwalk (16-6) has now won 10 straight matches and paid a visit to Inland Valley League champion Valley View on Nov. 14.

“It’s special,” said Norwalk head coach Jessie Gonzalez. “We’ve been on a tear…making it a 10-game winning streak. We’re trying to make sure to keep the momentum going. This is one win that we’re trying to accomplish out of many that we want to still accomplish. It feels good but now we have to focus on the next game.”

“It was a good thing because we haven’t won in the playoffs since 20-something years ago,” said Norwalk junior middle blocker Jazmin Guzman. “It’s a confidence booster for the next round.”

The Lady Lancers wasted no time in getting the job done as senior setter Dayna Moreno began the match by serving five straight points. The hosts would then lead by counts of 11-2, 14-3 and 19-5 as serving set the tone early.

In the second set, a kill from Guzman made it 6-3 before she immediately served seven straight points to put that set away. The Lions did manage to score six straight points on five kills from Ashanti Barnes and an ace from Baille Walker and even led by a point three times in the early going of the third set.

However, Norwalk put together another long scoring spree, complements of the stellar serving from freshman defensive specialist Paola Nava (three aces). Then the Lady Lancers capped off the victory with 11 straight points, making it a 22-7 affair as senior Daniela Lozada and freshman outside hitter Athena Sio combined for five kills. For the match, Norwalk had scoring sprees of five, six, four, seven, nine, seven and 11 points. In contrast, the fourth place representatives from the Golden League could not reel off more than two straight points besides the aforementioned six consecutive points.

“Those streaks were powered by our serving,” Gonzalez said. “Our serving was the key here. I told the girls from the beginning we can’t afford service errors.”

“Coach Jessie told us before the playoffs started that serving was going to be important,” Guzman said. “That’s our strongest thing because it throws off the offense. If they can’t pass, it’s hard for them to get a good hit.”

Guzman, as she has done all season, paced Norwalk with 14 kills and four aces while her tag team partner, senior outside hitter Viviana Gomez, added 12 kills, five aces and a block. Lozada had a solid match with nine kills and Sio chipped in with half a dozen kills. Moreno also had five aces as Norwalk finished with 44 kills and 21 aces.

“We prepared for this game as if it was a Mayfair, La Mirada, Cerritos match,” Gonzalez said. “The high intensity and energy that we knew we had to bring, we had to make sure we covered that.”

“We never want to underestimate anyone, so we wanted to come out play like we always do,” Guzman said.

Should Norwalk come away with the upset over the two-loss Eagles from Moreno Valley, it will most likely face top seeded Culver City.

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