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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW : Gahr spikers in total control of San Gabriel Valley League, get past Warren in four

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The Gahr High girls volleyball program has not won consecutive San Gabriel Valley League titles in over two decades, but the Lady Gladiators are sitting in as good as a position as ever. And while there are four more matches to go in the regular season, first-year head coach Gerryn Moran isn’t about to celebrate anything yet, even though her team is leading the pack by two games.

Gahr earned a hard-fought win over visiting Warren High 17-25, 25-18, 25-10, 25-22 this past Wednesday to improve to 14-4 overall and 6-0 in league play. Downey High, whom the Lady Gladiators have swept this season, and Warren, are both tied for second place at 4-2. At this point, it’s safe to say that Gahr is peaking at the right time.

“I would say that we’ve definitely been on an uphill roll,” Moran said. “We were a little shaky in the beginning. We’ve been trying different lineups, trying to figure out what works best; what really makes out hitters shine and what makes our setters shine. And I think that now that we’ve figured that out, we’re able to put out the same team. The same girls are next to each other and they’re working better next to each other with every game and every practice. So, we’re definitely on our way up.”

Gahr got out of the gates slow, falling behind 12-6 and then 16-9 before making a small comeback. A kill and a block from sophomore middle blocker Kiara Davis made it 17-11. Moments later, back to back aces from senior middle blocker Mariah Uini brought Gahr back to within five points at 21-16. The loss marked the second time this season that Gahr had fallen in the first set before rallying to win the next three sets, thus testing the adversity of the Lady Gladiators.

“I’ve talked to the girls over the season a lot about using that first game not as a warm-up game, and a lot of times they go out there and they’re kind of too relaxed,” Moran said. “We’re still working on it; it’s definitely a work in progress. But it’s going out there, playing hard from the very first whistle to the very last whistle.”

Gahr would be in another tight battle in the second set, and even though it held leads of 13-7 and 17-11, the Bears would rally each time. But with the hosts clinging to a slim 20-17 lead, Uini had a kill that led to three more consecutive points to put the set away. Then in the third set, Gahr made sure Warren wouldn’t have a chance as the Lady Gladiators bolted out to a 7-1 lead, then 12-3 and finally 19-4. Moran said the turning point of the match was the second and third sets when her team limited Warren’s top hitter, Jennine Dahdul, to five kills after she posted the same number in the first set alone. Dahdul would finish the match with 18 kills, the same number as Uini.

“With her being their number one player, we really had to hone in and make sure that we’re watching her at all times,” Moran said. “We’re serving her tough, trying to pull her out of her game even though she was still coming after us with everything she had.”

The lead would change hands eight times in the fourth set with the final change coming after Uini put down her 17thkill, giving Gahr a 16-15. That would be followed by a kill from senior outside hitter Hunter Thomas (17 kills), her third ace and a block from Uini. The teams would trade points before a kill from Dahdul made it 21-19. Shortly after that, Thomas secured the win with two more kills and a block.

The win over the Bears came 24 hours after the Lady Gladiators took care of Downey 25-16, 25-23, 23-25, 25-16. Downey and Warren historically have been the toughest league competition for Gahr with any of those three claiming the league crown at season’s end.

“It was difficult, and I told them in the weeks leading up to this, especially last week and the week before, that we were playing these teams back to back, Downey for the second time and Warren for the first time,” Moran said. “If you’re tired and you’re fatigued, then that’s part of the sport. Sometimes you don’t get a break in between, and then that’s part of going back home, getting your rest, taking care of things that you can at home and coming back 100 percent.”

Gahr would host Dominguez High on Oct. 3 and will entertain Lynwood High on Tuesday before the rematch with Warren on the road on Thursday.

In other girls volleyball action, just two full weeks remain, and four area teams are locks for postseason play with up to two more possibly getting in on the last day. Artesia High is 7-15 overall and 2-4 in the 605 League and will visit league-leading Cerritos High today before travelling to second place Whitney High on Tuesday. Whitney (11-5, 5-1) will be home to Pioneer High today.

Cerritos (19-5, 6-0) will travel to third place John Glenn High (8-9, 3-3) on Tuesday. The Lady Eagles will also go to Oxford Academy today. Norwalk High will try to get back into the win column as it faced La Mirada High on Oct. 3 and will travel to Bellflower High on Tuesday. The Lady Lancers are coming off a four-set loss to Mayfair High this past Tuesday that dropped their record to 4-17 overall and 0-4 in the Suburban League. The Lady Lancers have lost eight straight matches.

Valley Christian High has not played since outlasting Whittier Christian High in five sets on Sept. 25. The Lady Defenders are ranked eighth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 poll, two spots below Cerritos, and were 17-7 overall, 3-1 in the Olympic League heading into their Oct. 3 road match at Maranatha High. V.C. will also host Village Christian High on Tuesday and go to Heritage Christian High on Thursday.

FOOTBALL

Segerstrom High (6-0) @ Artesia (2-3)-With two games left in its non-league season, the Pioneers will face their toughest competition with the second ranked team in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 11. Artesia is coming off a tough 8-0 loss to El Dorado High last Friday with the lone score coming in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers have not scored since the third quarter in their Sept. 13 game at Westminster High.

The Jaguars have shutout three opponents, the last coming last week at University High (57-0) and have allowed 41 points. In five games, Artesia has scored 87 points, but only 48 points in its last four contests. Segerstrom is a pass-happy team with Angel Vega throwing for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns and Andrew Contreras another 311 yards and nine touchdowns. The Jags defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times and Andrew Schouw had five of his team’s nine interceptions.

St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy (4-0) @ Cerritos (2-3)-After a promising start to the season, one that saw Cerritos score 93 points in the first two games, the Dons have dropped three in a row, including a 40-15 decision to Northwood High last Friday. The Warriors are in the top spot in the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 14 and have scored at least 27 points in every game this season.

Valley Christian (3-3) @ Whittier Christian (2-3)-This is the Olympic League opener for both teams and V.C. is coming off a narrow 15-14 win at La Salle High last week in the first of three straight road games. Whittier Christian fell to Ganesha High 65-41 last Friday and has yielded nearly 30 points a game. Quarterback George Acuna III is completing almost 45 percent of his passes but has thrown for 859 yards and eight touchdowns. As a team, the Heralds have rushed for 660 yards.

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