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By Loren Kopff
When the Norwalk High girls volleyball team hosted Cerritos High this past Monday, it had a chance to lock up second place in the Suburban League all by itself. However, the Lady Dons had other plans and after falling in the first set, they came back to with a flurry.
Behind a balanced attack led by junior middle blocker Ifeoma Okoli (17 kills) and freshman outside hitter Samantha Oh (15 kills), the Lady Dons posted a 19-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-19 victory. How important was this win for Cerritos? The four-set victory allowed Cerritos to tie Norwalk for second place in the standings. Both teams would win their final regular season matches this past Wednesday to finish 9-3 in the circuit. Both teams split their season series and each won four sets against each other. Both teams finished scoring 170 points against each other but the second round victory over the Lady Lancers allowed the Lady Dons to head into the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs as the league’s No. 2 representative.
“I think it’s a big deal for us,” said Cerritos head coach David Cuthbert. “Two years ago we came in fourth place, last year we came in third and this year we came in second. So we want to make progress and that’s the highest league finish for anybody in the program currently. Hopefully that translates into a good time for us in the playoffs. But there are a lot of good teams. So we’ll see.”
Despite losing the first set, Oh and Okoli were making their presence known by combining for 10 kills of the 19 points Cerritos managed in the set. Norwalk was up 7-2 in the second set before a block from junior middle blocker Lakshmi Martin, a kill from Okoli and two aces from senior libero Nicole Medina made it 7-6.
Cerritos took the lead for good 11-9, on a kill from junior outside hitter Daisy Segura and an ace from junior outside hitter Kristin Londrie. Oh would put the set away by serving five straight points to make it 19-15.
Cerritos (13-8 overall) led 10-5, 14-9 and 21-14 in the third set but Norwalk junior opposite hitter Anissa Uncapher reeled off five straight points, three of which were kills from senior outside hitter Vanessa Cardenas. Okoli would end the set with two straight kills and three of the final four points the visitors would score.
The Lady Dons never trailed in the fourth set, jumping out to a 13-4 lead. They also got solid performances from Londrie (nine kills), Segura (eight kills) and sophomore middle blocker Kelly Amalu (seven kills).
Norwalk was led by Cardenas, junior outside hitter Ashley Whittall (13 kills each) and senior opposite hitter Norma Marquez (six kills). While the Lady Lancers swept Bellflower High 25-6, 25-11, 25-15 this past Wednesday to finish the regular season at 15-10, the Lady Dons had an easy regular season finale themselves.
“We knew what we had to do,” Cuthbert said of the Norwalk match. “Not points-wise, but we knew we had to [come in here] and win. It was a really easy team talk to have with my players. They knew what was expected and they followed through on that.”
Cerritos was barely tested by John Glenn High in a 25-10, 25-14, 25-12 victory on senior night this past Wednesday as senior outside hitter Audrey Lai had a season-high 15 kills. Oh added 11 kills and five aces followed by 10 kills from Amalu and eight more from Okoli.
Cerritos had leads of 5-2, 10-4 and 16-5 in the first set, 6-0 in the second set and 11-2 in the third set. Glenn (5-19, 2-10) never led in the match and only tied it twice (2-2 in the first set and 1-1 in the third set).
Cerritos, which has won 10 of its last 14 matches, will begin the playoffs on Tuesday night with the site and opponent to be determined today when the brackets are released. Last season, the Lady Dons were swept by third seeded and division finalist St. Margaret’s
“We had a better second half than the first half,” Cuthbert said. “I feel we’re playing better. Our lineup has changed a little bit. We have a little more size in there and that has definitely helped us play a little bit better. We’re certainly playing the best we are. We’re going in the right direction.”
In other girls volleyball action, Gahr High swept Dominguez High 25-8, 25-10, 25-7 in the regular season finale to head into the playoffs at 16-9 overall and 8-2 in the San Gabriel Valley League, good for second place.
Valley Christian High came close in the first two sets against Whittier Christian High but in the end, it was the Heralds who swept the Lady Crusaders 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 this past Tuesday night. V.C. wraps up the regular season at 14-13 overall but 2-6 in the Olympic League and fourth place. It figures to get an at-large bid for the playoffs.
The regular season comes to an end tonight when Artesia High (3-6 overall, 2-3 in the Suburban League) hosts Bellflower High with fourth place on the line and Gahr High (3-6, 1-3 in the San Gabriel Valley League) visiting Dominguez 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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