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Valley Christian looking for respect after knocking off two-time defending champions

By Loren Kopff

DOWNEY- If the Valley Christian girls volleyball team didn’t get much attention in the first couple of weeks of the regular season, maybe now people will start to notice the 2012 Lady Crusaders. Backed by strong performances from senior opposite hitter Morgan Haner, senior outside hitter Alyx Henry and junior middle blocker Amanda Chamberlain, among others, the visiting Lady Crusaders took care of Downey 25-20, 25-21, 19-25, 26-24 this past Tuesday afternoon.

The Vikings won back to back California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-A championships but were moved up to Division II-AA in the offseason. Entering this past week, the Vikings were ranked second in the division while V.C. wasn’t ranked in the Division II-A top 10 poll, nor ranked in another publication’s area poll.

“I think it legitimizes a little of what I [mentioned] three weeks ago,” said V.C. head coach Brett Rinks. “I think knocking off Downey at their place, Cerritos at their place and Mayfair at ours…that’s a huge statement, especially in Division II, that we’re here to play this year.”

V.C. stunned the home crowd in the first set when senior setter Allyson DeKruyf served five straight points as her team opened up a 6-0 lead. The lead would balloon to 15-4 and 17-6 before the Vikings settled down and from the serving of Rachel Rodriguez, were able to cut the V.C. lead to three points at 17-14. But Henry propelled her team down the stretch with three kills in the final moments of the first set along with a kill and block from Chamberlain.

“Downey is a phenomenal team and they have a lot more weapons than I remember that were coming back this year,” Rinks said. “I was little shocked to see that, but at the same time I think we came out stronger than them at the beginning, and faster. That’s how we got our lead at 17-6. But then Downey woke up. Downey is a great team and they’re not just going to lie down and give us the whole game.”

The second set was much closer all the way through with Henry adding four more kills but got help from Haner (three kills, two aces) and junior outside hitter Maggie Streelman (four kills, two aces, one block). But the tide shifted in Downey’s favor in the third set as its prized player, Joy Miley, began to heat up. Held to seven kills in the first two sets, Miley erupted for six in the third set including one that forced a side out to make the score 21-19. From there, Kimberly Schnars served the final four points of the set.

Both teams traded points in the fourth set with no one leading by more than four points when Downey held a 20-16 advantage. Again, with Henry not as effective as she was in the first two sets, Miley continued to get stronger and finished with a match-high 22 kills. But when Miley served long, it gave new life to the Lady Crusaders and a kill from Henry plus an ace from DeKruyf made it 20-19. Another kill from Henry and her two aces put V.C. in front and shortly after that, an ace from senior libero Cayla Palmer put the Lady Crusaders at match point.

A kill from Schnars and an ace from Rodriguez tied the set but the Vikings were called for a net violation. That gave the serve to Haner and she ended the match with her third ace, first since the second set.

“I think part of our surprise we gave them was we ran a very fast offense in the first two games and that was a lot of Alyx’ success,” Rinks said. “She runs a very fast go-ball and beats the block, and did today in the first two games. They started rotating the block around a lot and rearranging where Joy was blocking at and I think that threw us off a little bit [later in the match].”

Henry led the Lady Crusaders with 18 kills while Chamberlain added 11 kills, Haner nine kills and Streelman eight kills. V.C. also got a quiet but effective performance from senior middle blocker Cierra Trudeau, who had five kills but most of them were tips that confused the Downey defense.

“Cierra has made a phenomenal improvement,” Rinks said. “She’s gotten a lot smarter. She’s still undersized in the middle, maybe in our division. But at the same time, she’s learned to read the block well and either tip around or roll around or hit around.”

V.C., off to its second 3-0 start in three seasons, will participate in the Otay Ranch Tournament on Saturday and visit Warren on Tuesday. Its next home match is Thursday against St. Joseph.

“It’s always the hope of a coach that coming out of summer, we’re ready,” Rinks said. “We’ve had one of the best summers I’ve ever had coaching at Valley Christian and I was hopeful. But at the same time, I don’t want to be too cocky and say we had a great summer and we’re going to do well. I think after this 4-0 run, if you count the Cerritos scrimmage, we’re on a good roll.”

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