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Cerritos, Gahr off to slow starts without key players in Girls Volleyball

By Loren Kopff

The season is barely five matches old for the Cerritos and Gahr girls volleyball teams and already each is feeling the effects of vacancies of one of their top players. Both teams wrapped up the annual 2012 Gahr/Molten Volleyball Classic going 2-3 with one of the Cerritos wins coming by way of a forfeit when Buena Park didn’t show up and one of the Gahr victories coming against Cerritos.

Recently, first-year Gahr head coach Iris Murray learned that senior outside hitter Jewelyn Sawyer had left the team to focus more on basketball. Across town, Cerritos will be without the services of sophomore setter Lorinet Marquez, who broke her left arm in three places recently. The Lady Dons inserted sophomore Kaitlyn Bales, who had never set before and had little to no time to learn before the season began last Thursday.

Following losses to Chaminade last Thursday and Rosary last Saturday sandwiched around a 25-23, 25-10, 25-20 win over Cerritos, the Gladiators lost the final two sets against Orange Lutheran this past Monday morning while showing little urgency to pull off an upset. The Lancers bolted out to a 12-3 lead in the third set and an 8-2 lead in the fourth set in their 25-19, 18-25, 25-15, 25-14 victory.

“We have a lack of motivation and that’s because we get tired,” Murray said. “We need to be in better shape by the time league starts. We needed to capitalize on their missed serves but we didn’t. We didn’t take advantage of their mistakes like we should have.”

In a pattern that could be redundant now that Sawyer is not in the lineup, the majority of the kills are coming from senior outside hitter Aaliyah Heckard and junior middle blocker Olouma Okaro, who combined for 36 of the 40 kills Gahr spiked against Orange Lutheran.

Gahr never led in the first set but got within two points three times late in the set, the first after trailing 15-10 as senior libero Dymond Johnson served a pair of aces along with getting a kill from sophomore setter Frankie DiLorio. In the second set, Gahr finally pulled away from the Lancers late when senior right side hitter Tisha Lenon reeled off seven straight points, five of which were aces and the other two were kills from Heckard. Murray was quick to say that early on, Lenon has been the best server on the team.

“Olouma and Aaliyah do need to play a bigger role without Jewelyn because I was expecting to have all three of them,” Murray said. “Tisha is doing her best on the right and my two middles are trying to work hard. But we need to improve in the middle and we need to improve on the right.”

Later in the day, Gahr would pick up its second win of the season as it swept Carson 25-18, 25-23, 26-24. The Gladiators will be off until Thursday when it hosts St. Joseph.

Over at Mayfair High School, one of four sites being used for the 32-team tournament, Cerritos was leading Torrance two sets to one and 7-3 in the fifth set before the Tartars rallied for six straight points and eventually earn a 25-21, 16-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-9 win this past Monday morning. Senior middle hitter Bali Leffall-Young led the Lady Dons with 17 kills while senior outside hitter Arnelle Duru added 13 kills. Junior middle hitter Anne Osuji chimed in with 10 kills but only one in the final two sets. Junior left side hitter Mariah Gonzalez led Cerritos with six aces followed by five each from Bales and junior opposite hitter Jody Suski and four each from Duru and junior libero Rachel Fitterer.

Cerritos visited Warren on Sept. 6 and will be off until Sept. 15 when it participates in the Burbank Tournament for the first time ever.