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By Loren Kopff
LAKEWOOD-From the way the Gahr girls volleyball team began its match with St. Joseph High this past Tuesday evening, it looked as if the Gladiators would be swept, or lose in four sets. Then Gahr rallied and was one set away from a victory, and later two points away from a five-set triumph.
But St. Joseph had enough in the end to post a 25-14, 21-25, 19-25, 25-15, 15-13 win inside the Flynn Center. The Gladiators found themselves down 13-5 in the first set and never got a rhythm going as the Jesters pounded down 12 kills and served five aces early on.
“The first set wasn’t our best game [but] I’m real happy that we were able to shake that off and come strong through the second set,” said Gahr head coach Iris Najera. “After we got going after the second set, I told the girls that the first set was just a warm-up.”
Gahr would get to within seven points twice but a kill from Kate Baldwin plus two aces from Alexxis Corona put the set away. Gahr would only score consecutive points just once, but by then St. Joseph was ahead 23-11. The Jesters would come out strong in the second set and took a 10-7 lead following a kill from Shelby Cole. That came right after Najera called a timeout to calm her team down a bit.
“I said that we were playing really well, we’re playing really hard and everyone was giving their best effort,” Najera said. “But we’re taking too long to earn the point. I told them that the rallies were really long and we have good defense and they have good defense. But we need to side out on the first pass.”
Her words seemed to help as St. Joseph was called for a double hit violation before senior setter Niahni Moultry served back to back aces to tie the set. Later in the set, freshman outside hitter Jazmynn Parrish posted her eighth and ninth kills to put Gahr up 22-18. She would add one more in the set to show that she is a force to be reckoned with early in her high school career.
The Gladiators wasted no time in establishing a big lead in the third set, getting ahead 8-5, 12-7 and 18-11. Six different players combined for 13 kills in the set while junior middle blocker Zanache Stanton had a pair of blocks. Parrish would finish the match with a team-high 20 kills while Stanton added 10 kills and six blocks. Those two have already complemented a solid offensive attack that includes returning senior opposite hitter Tyra Parrish and junior middle blocker Shantelle Marshall, among others.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had many offensive weapons,” Najera said. “We have so many options. I think Jazmynn is doing an excellent job with all of the pressure. Actually, she’s a freshman, so she doesn’t even know about pressure. And [Zanache] worked very hard in the offseason to get to the level where she is right now.”
In the fourth set, the Gladiators fell behind 4-0 and never recovered as the Jesters never allowed Gahr to get to within two points. However, the visitors opened the final set strong and after an ace from Moultry, had a 4-1 lead. They were up 6-4 before St. Joseph, behind a pair of kills from Cole, scored five straight points and never trailed again. Gahr tied the set three times, the last on a Marshall block to make it a 13-13 affair. But Kelly Raggett and Baldwin, with her 15th kill, ended any chance of a late match rally.
Tyra Parrish added nine kills as the Gladiators dropped to 3-6, including going 2-4 in last weekend’s Dave Mohs Tournament.
“I’m seeing more consistency, I’m seeing more fight, I’m seeing more teamwork,” Najera said. “And our record doesn’t accurately depict the success of our team right now. Five out of the six losses that we’ve had this season were games that were well fought and I thought my girls did their best effort and I was happy with that.”
Gahr hosted St. Anthony on Sept. 17, then competed in the Valley Christian/Mayfair Girls Varsity Volleyball Classic in which it will be in a pool with Cerritos, Serra and J.W. North. The Gladiators will then visit Marina on Wednesday.
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