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SUBURBAN LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL Norwalk unable to weather Mayfair’s storm in four-set loss

By Loren Kopff

LAKEWOOD-The big bulls-eye that has been on the backs of the Norwalk girls volleyball team since winning the Suburban League last season has taken its first hit of the 2014 league season. Going back to the scene of probably its best road win in school history, Norwalk couldn’t duplicate the same success a second consecutive time.
Mayfair knocked off the Lady Lancers 25-20, 19-25, 25-14, 25-20 this past Tuesday afternoon to give the defending league champions their first league setback this season. On Oct. 22, 2013, Norwalk stunned the host Monsoons in a four-set victory in which three of the four sets were decided by two points. But this time around, Mayfair dominated early on and again in the third set. The Monsoons raced out to a 7-2 lead in the first set before senior middle blocker Jazmin Guzman served a pair of power aces down the middle of Mayfair’s side of the court. Moments later with the hosts leading 10-6, Guzman had her first two kills of the match. Guzman was returning from a two-week absence in which she was healing from a left ankle injury during a match against California on Sept. 12.
“It’s kind of hard [to come back] because of building chemistry and just getting used to everyone again,” Guzman said. “I wanted to play because I like to help the team out. I know they wanted me back and I wanted to be a team player; just make the team as strong as we can be.”
Mayfair’s Marilyn Finney posted three straight aces to make the score 16-11 and although the Lady Lancers battle back throughout the set, they just couldn’t get closer than two points the rest of the way.
“I think it was just getting to know how they would play,” said Norwalk head coach Jessie Gonzalez. “We’ve kind of had a feeling that they would have a traditional offense and higher sets. And we knew who their offensive hitters were. I think it was just getting a feel for the game more than anything.”
Norwalk (6-6 overall, 1-1 in league) bounced back in the second set, taking a 5-4 lead on the second straight kill from junior outside hitter Vanessa Cardenas, and never looked back. An ace from sophomore defensive specialist Paola Nava pushed the lead to 17-11 and later on, a kill from sophomore outside hitter Athena Sio increased the bulge to 22-12.
“We knew it was going to be hard because we knew [Mayfair] is a good team,” Guzman said. “We didn’t want to come in overconfident. So, we knew it was important to stay strong [in the second set].”
“It’s huge, especially away, because once you take a set away from another team, it kind of gets in their head mentally,” Gonzalez said.
A combined block from Guzman and senior setter Elana Auwae-Ortiz tied the third set at 5-5 before the Monsoons reeled off eight straight points and never let Norwalk get back. But in the fourth set, with a sense of urgency for the Lady Lancers, both teams combined for 11 ties and four lead changes until Mayfair took a 15-14 lead after trailing 14-12. Gonzalez called a timeout to calm his team down, but once play resumed, Mariah Clausen served two aces and Mayfair eventually built a 19-14 lead.
Two kills from junior opposite hitter Norma Marquez and an ace from Guzman made it 19-17. Then trailing by six points, Marquez had another kill followed by an ace from junior setter Brenda Hernandez and a kill from Auwae-Ortiz before the Monsoons closed out the match. Guzman led the Lady Lancers with 14 kills while Cardenas and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Whittall added seven and six kills respectively.
“She makes a huge difference offensively and defensively,” Gonzalez said of Guzman. “But her coming back after two weeks, the chemistry for the entire team wasn’t quite there. But I wouldn’t want to have anyone else on the court. In my eyes, she’s still the best player in the league. She just needs a little time to get healthy. Next time around, it will be a different result.”
Norwalk hosted Artesia on Oct. 2 and will entertain Cerritos on Tuesday. Last season, the Lady Dons survived a five-set win to give Norwalk its only league loss. The Lady Lancers will then visit Bellflower on Thursday.
“That just makes us want to work harder; not letting anyone take that from us,” Guzman said of her team having the big target on its back.
“I think it’s virtually almost impossible [to go undefeated in league], but I know it’s happened before,” Gonzalez said. “Different teams go different ways each year and it’s kind of tough to tell how a team is going to turnaround.”