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By Loren Kopff
DOWNEY-When Gahr High visited Warren High last Thursday afternoon, there was a three-way tie for first place in the San Gabriel Valley League. The aforementioned schools, along with Downey High were all sitting with 5-1 league marks with Warren’s loss coming to Gahr back on Oct. 6 in a five-set match.
However, the rematch would be a different story and Warren’s Miranda White would have a lot to say in breaking the three-way tie. White tormented the Gladiator’s defense to the tune of 25 kills, four aces and a block as Warren knocked off Gahr 25-19, 22-25, 25-14, 28-26. It was a performance that prompted Gahr head coach Iris Najera to claim that White was the league’s best player on that day.
“Oh, she’s awesome,” Najera said. “She did a really great job and I’m surprised because last time we played them, I knew that wasn’t her best game. And she still dominated even though it wasn’t her best game. We did our best to prepare and we knew that she would come out swinging and she did. She’s an excellent all-around hitter and she knows how to tool the block.”
Both combatants were in a tight first set until a serving error allowed Warren’s Vanessa Garcia to serve four straight points, three of which were aces, as the hosts held a 14-9 lead. Gahr never got closer than four points the rest of the way but White was just getting started with five kills, as was Jasmine Palacios (four kills).
Gahr began the second set on fire as senior setter Niahni Moultry served the first six points including four aces. The Bears would rally with five straight points and eventually took a 10-7 lead. Later in the set, Moultry added two more aces, senior opposite hitter Tyra Parrish had a kill and a block and freshman outside hitter Jazmynn Parrish added a kill as Gahr moved ahead 20-17.
With the Gladiators leading by a point, Tyra Parrish finished the set with a kill and an ace. It would be one of 11 aces Gahr served in the set, but it would have three more aces the rest of the way. On the other side of the court, the Bears pounded out 23 aces as Gahr’s serve receive was hampering the team as well as White’s performance.
“This wasn’t our best serve receive day,” Najera said. “And one of our strategies is to dominate in our serve receive and side out quickly and we were not successful at that today.”
Warren raced to a 10-2 lead in the third set and was barely challenged as it added seven more aces along with six more kills from White. The Bears again jumped to a big lead in the fourth set, this time 10-4, before the Gladiators charged backed with consecutive kills from senior outside hitter Ailaine Tolentino to make it a 10-7 affair. It would be the only two kills she would get after a 14-kill afternoon against Downey on Oct. 13.
“I’m not looking to find any new players for our offense,” Najera said. “We made a decision to have Ailaine not play as much today because we thought somebody else was better defensively. Ailaine is our best offensive weapon. But we were taking a defensive approach in this one and it didn’t work.”
Gahr took a 17-14 lead on an ace from senior defensive specialist Naomi Belgrave but the Bears rallied back to take a 21-18 lead. Moments later, an ace from junior defensive specialist Alyssa Morada put Gahr two points away from extending the match. But Palacios had two straight kills to put Warren up 24-23. Gahr would then be a point way from the win when Jazmynn Parrish had two straight kills. But an ace from Palacios ended the match and a chance for Gahr to stay in first place.
Jazmynn Parrish led Gahr with 15 kills while Tyra Parrish added eight kills three blocks and junior middle blocker Zanache Stanton six more kills. Junior middle blocker Shantelle Marshall chipped in with five kills and two blocks.
“I’m really happy for her,” Najera said of Jazmynn Parrish. “She’s been able to handle a lot of pressure and sometimes when you have a freshman as good as her, you think, ‘are they naive, do they even know what’s going on’? But she knows exactly what’s going on. She’s very experienced.”
Gahr (14-9 overall, 6-2 in league) would sweep Paramount High 25-12, 25-17, 25-18 this past Tuesday while Warren defeated Downey to take sole possession of first place. The Gladiators visited Downey on Oct. 29 and will wrap up the regular season at home against last place Dominguez High on Tuesday. The prospects of a three-way tie for first place seem slim as Warren wraps up its regular season against the bottom two teams in the league. Still, Gahr is shooting for second place.
“We know that Downey has heart and they don’t give up,” Najera said. “We have been reminding the girls every day since [the loss] about that.”
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