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CERRITOS GIRLS VOLLEYBALL SWEEPS NORWALK TO FINISH IN SECOND PLACE TIE

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

With second place on the line in Suburban League girls volleyball, turnabout was fair play for Cerritos High in the final regular season match. Almost a month after the Lady Dons came out flat in a three-set loss at Norwalk, they returned the favor by dominating the Lady Lancers this past Tuesday, posting a 25-10, 25-20, 25-12 win.

Cerritos ends the regular season at 15-7 overall, 9-3 in league while Norwalk dropped to 15-10, 9-3 and has lost two of its last three matches.

“They knew what they had to bring,” said Cerritos head coach David Cuthbert. “When we look at the two [meetings], in the first [meeting], Norwalk did exactly what they wanted to do. [Today], we did what we wanted to do. That’s how it shakes out.”

Cerritos came out with a bang in the opening set, leading 10-2 thinks to three aces and a pair of kills from senior outside hitter Andrea Diaz. When the set was over, the Lady Dons had served nine aces and received four kills from senior middle blocker Ifeoma Okoli and three more from senior middle blocker Lakshmi Martin.

“I think the sense of league being over with, after just losing to Mayfair, they’re mentality, whether or not I would like it or not, went down a bit,” said Norwalk first-year head coach Hector Guevera. “They just shut down. What I saw in them was maybe they were expecting the same old Cerritos that we faced before.”

Norwalk would turn it around in the first half of the second set and led 10-3 after senior defensive specialist Mercedes Orozco served five straight points. After an ace from senior libero Paola Nava increased the lead to 15-8, Cerritos sophomore outside hitter Samantha Oh had a kill that led to freshman setter Emily Pasion reeling off 10 consecutive points. During that huge rally, Oh had four kills and Martin had three kills and a block.

“I need to check whether she’s actually a freshman because she behaves like an upperclassman,” Cuthbert joked. “She was composed, tough and did what she was supposed to do. I think that was certainly our biggest comeback [of the season]. I was starting to think about what changes we could make or is there anything we could do and we just served our way out of it.”

Norwalk senior outside hitter Ashley Whittall, who was held in check throughout the match, brought her team to within four points twice down the stretch. But Okoli slammed her fifth kill to end the set.

Already feeling defeated, Norwalk never regrouped in the third set as Cerritos scored the first six points and quickly raced to leads of 11-2, 14-3 and 23-6. Oh led Cerritos with 12 kills followed by eight kills from Diaz, seven each from Okoli and junior outside hitter Amber Han and six from Martin. Diaz and Pasion were superb in the serving department with five aces each.

“We’re a fairly balanced team,” Cuthbert said. “We have some people we would like to get a few more swings than others. But I’m fairly confident we can get kills from most spots on the court if the matchups are right and the sets are right. We did everything right to start the game.”

Meanwhile, the Lady Lancers were led by Whittall, who had 11 kills, and got another six from senior outside hitter Valerie Ortega and five from sophomore middle blocker Nayeli Gonzalez. The California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoff brackets will be released today with wild card action beginning on Saturday and the first round starting on Tuesday. Cerritos is in Division 5 while Norwalk is in Division 6.

“Sometimes the girls don’t like to hear the truth or the bad stuff,” Guevera said. “But just as much as they want to hear the good stuff on how well they do, they have to hear what’s there in front of us. They see on the court and they see no matter what, you have to put in the work ahead of time.”

“Second or third place can make a difference,” Cuthbert said. “But the way playoffs shake out, you can end up playing a really good team regardless of where you’re seeded. I think the biggest thing for us is psychologically to get that boost to get a big win going into playoffs. I think that’s the big deal for us.”

In other girls volleyball action, Gahr High wrapped up the regular season at 16-7 overall and 9-1 in the San Gabriel Valley League with an easy 25-11, 25-6, 25-5 win over last place Dominguez High this past Tuesday. Even though Gahr won 16 matches for the second straight season, the Lady Gladiators are enjoying their best season since 1998 when they went 17-5, went undefeated in league action, which was the school’s last league championship, and advanced to the semifinals. Gahr is in Division 4.

Valley Christian High finished off last place Heritage Christian High 25-19, 25-21, 25-21 this past Tuesday to finish the regular season at 17-10 overall and 8-0 in the Olympic League. The Lady Crusaders won their first league crown since 2001 when that team went 16-6 overall and 8-0 in the circuit. V.C. is in Division 5.

FOOTBALL

As the regular season is nearing the end, there are still some important games remaining on the docket. Artesia High will host Norwalk High tonight in its regular season final and a chance to increase its playoff chances. The Pioneers, who are just on the outside of the Division 12 top 10 poll, enter with a 6-3 overall record and 3-2 in the Suburban League. Norwalk, ranked seventh in Division 9, is sitting at 5-3, 2-2 and is coming off a bye.

Gahr High fell to Paramount High 27-7 last Friday for its first loss of the season. The 10th ranked Gladiators in Division 10 are 7-1 overall, 2-1 in the San Gabriel Valley League as they visit Downey High tonight. The Gladiators will wrap up the regular season on Thursday against Dominguez High.

John Glenn High, losers of seven straight games after an opening-season victory, will host Mayfair High tonight at Excelsior Stadium while Valley Christian High., the top ranked team in Division 9, will entertain Heritage Christian High tonight at Crusader Field.

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