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By Loren Kopff
LAKEWOOD-A surprising week of unexpected events since the Norwalk High girls volleyball team last played on Oct. 20 came back to haunt the squad when it mattered the most. Due to several players missing practice because of other school functions or appointments with doctors, the Lady Lancers walked into Mayfair High’s gymnasium unprepared this past Tuesday afternoon.
Playing the biggest match of the season with the Suburban League title at stake, head coach Jessie Gonzalez, who admitted he was not nervous, but worried, watched the Monsoons clinch at least a share of the league crown with a 25-9, 25-20, 25-20 victory. Gonzalez attributed the loss to a lack of preparation. Only seven players showed up to practice last Friday as the team had really one day of practice, which was this past Monday, when 11 players showed up.
“It’s happened every now and then but not before a big game like this,” Gonzalez said. “Last week was kind of the first time it has happened that extensively.”
Minutes after losing to Mayfair in four sets back on Oct. 1, Gonzalez already knew how to play Mayfair the second time around. He even admitted that his team wanted it more at Norwalk than at Mayfair and said the plan of attack for this past Tuesday was there, but not the execution.
Norwalk was down 8-5 in the first set when a serving error led to the demise of the Lady Lancers for the remainder of the match. That’s when Mayfair reeled up 14 straight points as its big 6’3” middle blocker, Skyler Williams, had two straight blocks off of junior outside hitter Ashley Whittall, then later three kills. Brooklin Mize had three kills in that sequence while Marilyn Finney added a pair of kills.
Norwalk (13-9 overall, 7-2 in league) took its first lead at 4-3 in the second set following an ace from senior defensive specialist Kathleen Perez. Later in the set, an ace from junior libero Paola Nava put Norwalk up 15-14. But Sophie Toucey served five straight points to secure the win.
“Once they started losing a couple of points, they couldn’t climb out of the hole we dug ourselves in and the points kept piling up,” Gonzalez said. “It just goes to show the potential this team had today. It was a failure of execution. I think talent-wise, we’re fairly matched [with Mayfair]. But the fact that we couldn’t execute when it counted was what hurt us.”
Finney began the third set with four straight aces and even though the Lady Lancers rallied back and never trailed by more than two points until the very end, it was just too much of Williams, who had eight of her match-high 18 kills in the third set including four of the final seven points the Monsoons would score.
“When you’re playing against a girl who is 6’ 2”, 6’ 3”, it’s hard to defend when you don’t have the same height on your side,” Gonzalez said. “Regardless of how you play your defense, it’s still tough to make sure your back row adjusts or your front row adjusts because…her 6’3” plus her vertical plus her reach puts that at seven feet.”
As for Norwalk’s offense, senior outside hitter Vanessa Cardenas and senior opposite hitter Norma Marquez each had seven kills. Whittall, the team’s top offensive threat, was held to a season-low four kills and didn’t have her first kill until it was 3-3 in the second set.
Norwalk hosted Artesia High on Oct. 29 and will close out its home portion of the regular season against third place Cerritos High on Monday before travelling to Bellflower High on Wednesday.
In other girls volleyball action, Valley Christian High (14-11 overall, 2-4 in the Olympic League) never led against Village Christian High until early in the third set and was swept by the visiting Crusaders 25-15, 25-15, 25-17 this past Tuesday evening. Valley Christian trailed 5-0 in the first set and would not get closer than five points (11-6) when senior middle blocker Madi Huizar followed her first block with her first kill.
In the second set, Village Christian raced to a 9-1 lead and Valley Christian was unable to put together more than three straight points at any time. Valley Christian trailed 5-1 in the third set before a serve into the net gave the serve to senior libero Allison Sutherlin, who reeled off five straight points with three coming on aces plus a kill and a block from senior outside hitter Katelyn Albani. Back to back kills from junior opposite hitter Chloe DeVries put Valley Christian up 11-8. But with a 12-11 Valley Christian lead, Village Christian scored the next seven points to seal the win.
Albani led Valley Christian with seven kills while DeVries and freshman outside hitter Aubrey Schwieger each added five kills. Valley Christian visited Maranatha High on Oct. 29 and will conclude the regular season at home against Whittier Christian High on Tuesday.
Artesia (7-15, 2-8 in the Suburban League) will host Mayfair on Wednesday, Cerritos (9-8, 6-3) will host John Glenn High on Wednesday, Glenn (5-16, 2-7) hosted Bellflower on Oct. 29 and will be home to La Mirada High on Monday while Whitney High (4-12, 3-8 in the Academy League) hosts Crean Lutheran High this evening to wrap up its season.
The marquee game of tonight will take place at Crusader Field when Valley Christian hosts Maranatha with the Olympic League title on the line. Valley Christian, ranked sixth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Northwest Division top 10 poll, enters the contest at 7-2 overall, 3-0 in league while the Minutemen are 5-3, 2-0. However, Maranatha has won three straight against V.C. including a 31-28 victory on Nov. 8, 2013 at Crusader Field which decided the league title. The Crusaders will be seeking their first league title since 2011 and their first undefeated league campaign since 2009.
V.C. has outscored its first three league foes by a 143-29 margin while Maranatha has yielded 57 points this season with four shutouts.
Elsewhere tonight, Gahr (3-5, 1-2 in the San Gabriel Valley League), which lost to Paramount High 49-23 last Friday, will host Downey High.
Cerritos High is looking to fill its varsity softball vacancy as well as that of its boys and girls tennis teams All interested candidates are urged to email Cerritos co-athletic directors [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also reach Adams at (562) 926-5566, extension 21820 or Denhart at (562) 926-5566, extension 21808. Cerritos is looking to hire the new coaches as soon as possible.
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