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SUBURBAN LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL
By Loren Kopff
The Suburban League girls volleyball opener wasn’t too kind for Cerritos High as it was trying to snap a six-match losing streak to Mayfair High. Despite taking the first and third sets, the Lady Dons were completely dominated in the second and fourth sets.
Cerritos rallied back in the deciding fifth set but in the end, it was Mayfair which came out on top 21-25, 25-10, 22-25, 25-11, 15-11 as the Monsoons scored the final four points of the match on the strength of three kills from Monique Awanyai. This was the first time since Oct. 27, 2010 that these two schools have played each other to a fifth set and only the third time since 2007.
“It was an intense game today,” said Cerritos head coach David Cuthbert. “It was fun. It was nice to have, for the first [league] game of the year, that kind of atmosphere here in our gym and that kind of intensity from our players. We just came out on the wrong side of it.”
The first set had 11 ties and four lead changes with Mayfair’s biggest lead coming at 3-1 while the largest advantage for the hosts was at 22-16 after an ace from sophomore outside hitter Amber Han. It was her third ace as part of a five-point spree that put Cerritos up by that six-point advantage and her fourth ace of the set.
But the pendulum quickly shifted over to the Monsoons in the second set and in a quick way. Mayfair scored the first seven points of the set, prompting Cuthbert to call a timeout at 6-0. Whatever he said didn’t seem to work much as Cerritos didn’t score consecutive points until a kill from junior outside hitter Daisy Segura and back to back aces from freshman outside hitter Samantha Oh made the score 17-9.
“We needed to change something,” Cuthbert said. “We needed to change the momentum of the game. We needed our players to do something different. That’s what we talked about. We talked about changing our mentality.”
The third set was almost a carbon copy of the first set with eight ties and three lead changes. Mayfair had a brief 4-1 lead but Cerritos (3-4 overall, 0-1 in the Suburban League) took the lead for good at 11-10 on a serve into the net and never trailed from that point on despite the set being tied two more times. Oh had five kills in the set while junior middle blocker Ifeoma Okoli added three more.
However, if the third set was almost like the first set, then the nearly the same comparison can be said of the fourth set in relation to the second set. After the Lady Dons scored the first three points on a pair of aces from senior setter Lauren Oh and a kill from Segura, the Monsoons stormed back to reel off nine straight and never looked back. Helping her team’s cause in that scoring spree was Brooklin Mize, who served four aces, two of which barely skipped the top of the net and dropped in no man’s land on the Cerritos side.
“No one likes to see that,” Cuthbert said of Mayfair’s fast start. “We want to try to limit clusters of points. That’s how you’re successful at this level. We gave up a few clusters today and that’s something we’re going to talk about in practice and that’s something we’re going to work on tomorrow.”
The fifth set would see half a dozen ties and two lead changes. Mayfair owned a 6-3 lead before consecutive aces from Han tied the set at 8-8. Segura’s 15th and final kill gave Cerritos a 10-9 lead and moments later, Samantha Oh’s eighth kill made it 11-11. But in the end, it was too much of the 5’ 7” middle blocker Awanyai, who led everyone with 20 kills. Skyler Williams, who stands at 6’ 3”, was also another force in Mayfair’s attack with 15 kills and five blocks while Sarah Clausen pitched in with 13 kills.
“They certainly have some big hitters; they have some good players,” Cuthbert said. “They set the ball very well and they made some good choices. Their dominance at the net wasn’t just about being bigger. They made some smart plays and took us out of system a couple of times. They’re strong; that’s what they’re good at.”
Okoli had a dozen kills while junior middle blocker Lakshmi Martin chipped in with four kills and a block. Early on this season, it has been the play of Han, Martin, Segura and Samantha Oh that have many thinking that Cerritos can make some noise in the league despite its youth.
“They’re doing alright,” Cuthbert said. “There’s more I want from them but that’s what I ask of my players-is to get better and that’s what we’re trying to do. I think Lakshmi had a good day. She’s still has some things to learn about how to play the position and how to be smart about how she does it. But she’s getting better and better. When we get to the end of the season, we’re going to rely on her more.”
After winning its first three matches of the season, the team dropped all three pool play games in the Valley Christian/Mayfair Girls Varsity Volleyball Classic last Saturday. J.W. North defeated Cerritos 25-19, 22-25, 15-8 as Samantha Oh had seven kills and sophomore outside hitter Jackie Kan added six kills. Cerritos was then swept by Serra 25-15, 25-22 with Samantha Oh again leading the way with seven kills. The Lady Dons wrapped up pool play action by losing two sets to Gahr, 27-26 and 25-14 as Martin had five kills.
In the playoffs, Cerritos eliminated Downey 27-25 as Okoli, Segura and Han had kills in succession at the end to rally the team to the victory. In the championship match of the Silver Division, Gahr knocked off Cerritos again, 25-18 with Han leading the team with five kills, followed by four more from Okoli.
Cerritos hosted Artesia on Sept. 24 and will visit Bellflower on Tuesday for its only match next week. The rematch with Mayfair will be on Oct. 15 at Mayfair.
“We have to preserve our effort for five games, or three,” Cuthbert said. “We have to keep it the same; not have those ups and downs. Consistency is something that we have to get better at. We know we can compete. It’s hard to take moral victories after losing on your court. We just have to sustain our level for a little bit longer.”
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