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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL Gahr moves closer to locking down rare league title

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

The Gahr High girls volleyball team is off to its best start in San Gabriel Valley League play since 1998, the last time the program won a league championship. Following a convincing 25-14, 25-18, 25-16 sweep over Warren High last Thursday afternoon, the Lady Gladiators still remained undefeated in the circuit.

However, with three matches remaining in the regular season after the Warren match, and already knowing that Gahr has finished in second place six straight seasons, head coach Iris Najera wasn’t quite ready to celebrate a potential league crown despite the 7-0 league mark.

“Nope, not yet, not yet and that’s because my philosophy is to focus on the next point only,” Najera said. “It’s not surprising because I know we have the ability and we have the potential. I’m really glad that we learn every day. We learn every day at practice and we learn every day at the games.”

Gahr was in complete control in the first set with senior setter Lorelei Saleapaga serving the first five points. The set concluded with sophomore opposite hitter Kara Green reeling off three straight points. In between, sophomore outside hitter Jazminn Parrish was dominating with 10 kills and an ace.

Gahr raced out to another 5-0 lead in the second set and increased the lead to 11-5 after junior defensive specialist Kayllah Taylor served an ace. Later in the set, the lead would balloon to 22-13 after a block from senior outside hitter Alexus Latham. That ended a stretch of six straight points in which senior middle blocker Shantele Marshall had two blocks and a kill and Parrish added a kill and an ace. Through the first two sets, Parrish had 14 kills, as many as the entire Warren team.

Warren took its first lead of the match when it went up 3-0 in the third set. Gahr would take a 6-4 lead before the Bears rallied to go up 8-6 and were leading 15-13 before Green spiked her sixth kill to give the Lady Gladiators their final push of the match. Taylor would serve five straight points which included a pair of aces, a Green kill and a kill and block from senior middle blocker Zanache Stanton. After a serving error, Green’s eighth and final kill would allow her to serve the final five points.

While Parrish led everyone with 21 kills and Stanton had five blocks, Najera pointed out another component that shined on this day.

“I think this was one of our best defensive days,” Najera said. “And I’m really proud of our two defensive specialists, Kayllah and Alyssa,”

Gahr’s bid for an undefeated league season would end with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-23 loss to Paramount High this past Tuesday. Still, Gahr (14-7 overall) can win the league outright with a victory against Downey High, which was played on Oct. 20. The Lady Gladiators then conclude the regular season at Dominguez High on Tuesday. Last season, Gahr went 16-10 overall and 8-2 in the circuit. The season before, the team went 9-15, 6-4.

“I think the biggest turnaround has been I have leadership right now and someone like Lorelei Saleapaga, who is my setter now, has been a varsity player since her freshman year,” Najera said. “This is her fourth year working with me. She helps me run the squad with her leadership skills.