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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The reviews, and results, have been somewhat mixed on the Whitney High girls volleyball tour through the Suburban League after the first week of the regular season. Whitney head coach Ole Nervik, who is now in his 10th season as the helm of the Lady Wildcats program, has seen his team beat John Glenn High in five sets before being swept by Norwalk High in which the Lady Wildcats mustered 30 combined points.
Whitney was game against visiting Cerritos High this past Tuesday night all the way to the very end of the fourth set when the Lady Dons posted seven of the final nine points of the set. In the end, Cerritos escaped with a 25-17, 21-25, 25-8, 25-21 victory.
“It was a lot better than it was against Norwalk,” Nervik said of his team’s intensity. “I think if we played Norwalk with the same intensity, it would have been a much, much closer game. I was a little surprised that we did as well as we did today.
“But we were digging everything they threw at us,” he continued. “We’re still working on our offense; we still make too many unforced errors. But it was a pretty close match. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Cerritos scored the first three points of the match before Whitney came back with four straight of its own. And while the Lady Dons never trailed after a net violation put them up 5-4, Whitney was able to stay within three points until junior setter Camryn Sumabuto served the final four points of the set.
Once down 9-5, the Lady Wildcats made their first charge and trailed 10-9 after an ace from junior outside hitter Juliann Chou and 11-10 following a kill from senior outside hitter Karen Kaur. Then sophomore middle blocker Taylor Genera had a block and senior middle blocker Danielle Lee had consecutive blocks as Whitney trailed 17-16. But Cerritos would record four kills and a pair of aces down the stretch.
“Just like at the end of the last game, the hitter got hot,” Nervik said. “Those are just legitimate, good shots and there’s sometimes no defense for that. As a team we try to work on keeping the ball in play and making good shots out of it”
In the second set, it was more of a cat and mouse game with 11 ties and two lead changes. Neither team led by more than four points and the Lady Wildcats seemed to be in more control throughout most of the set.
Whitney had a 4-1 lead after a Genera kill before senior middle blocker Ifeoma Okoli tied the set with back to back kills. Then the hosts would hold a 15-11 advantage before Cerritos tied it at 17-17 on a kill from sophomore outside hitter Samantha Oh. But with the set tied at 21-21, senior outside hitter Alison Oh had a kill, followed by two kills from Kaur around an ace from senior setter Eunice Shim.
“We had a couple of moments today where I thought we were flat,” Nervik said. “But most of the time we were playing with strong intensity. Even in [the third set] when we tried with a different lineup and it didn’t work, we still put out the effort. Even when we were down by a ton, this team is really consistent about trying, trying and trying.”
In the opening moments of the third set, it looked as if Whitney was primed for another battle, taking a 5-4 lead after Chou’s seventh kill, then trailing 10-7 after Shim’s fifth kill. But the Lady Dons (3-0) reeled off 10 straight points with Okoli pounding down four kills in the process. After a kill from Alison Oh ended that streak, senior outside hitter Andrea Diaz gave the ball back to sophomore defensive specialist Sidney Pasion, where she quickly had an ace before her sister, freshman setter Emily Pasion, added two kills plus one more from Diaz.
Whitney got out to a 5-2 lead in the fourth set before Cerritos stormed back to take a 7-5 lead. The Lady Wildcats then took the lead again at 9-7 and were either in the lead or tied until an ace from junior middle blocker Kelly Amalu made it a 16-15 Cerritos advantage.
Chou’s 12th and final team-leading kill put Whitney up 19-18 before Cerritos gained the serving advantage when junior defensive specialist Kea Minami had a kill. From there, Samantha Oh served three points and the Lady Dons never looked back.
Okoli led Cerritos with 14 kills while Samantha Oh added 10 more as the Lady Dons opened league action this past Thursday at John Glenn High. Cerritos will then travel to defending league champion Mayfair High on Tuesday before going to Artesia High on Thursday.
Whitney, which will host Artesia this evening and welcome in St. Margaret’s High on Tuesday in the Academy League opener, also got solid performances from Kaur (six kills, three aces), Shim (five kills, two aces) and sophomore setter Jodie Morada (five kills, one ace). Whitney will also host Paramount High on Wednesday.
“I’ve got five players who can play almost any position,” Nervik said. “Let’s take Alison [for example]. She did a fantastic job as libero today. She’s also a really good hitter. This is a puzzle that we’re trying to put together right now; finding the exact right combination that works for us. We have so much flexibility.”
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