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Gahr experiments with new lineup as league season approaches

By Loren Kopff


With the San Gabriel Valley League’s first match being played on Sept. 27 against Paramount, Gahr first-year head coach Iris Murray used this past Tuesday’s match against Katella to try a new lineup. The Gladiators did get the win, a 25-7, 25-17, 25-23 conquest over the Knights, but it was far from the results Murray was hoping for.
The Gladiators were cruising through first part of the set and had a 10-3 lead in the second set. From that point on, it was a completely different story as Katella stayed within striking range that lasted through the third set.
“I wanted to use today to try a new lineup and I’m glad we had an opportunity to try the new lineup before league starts,” Murray said. “My girls had a hard time adjusting to the new lineup. They used that as an excuse to play soft and to play sloppy.”
Senior outside hitter Aaliyah Heckard ended the first set by serving eight straight points, putting down four aces and adding her fifth kill of the set. Junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro began the second set with three straight kills and later on, an ace from junior defensive specialist Jennifer Diggs gave the Gladiators a 10-3 lead.
But Katella battled back and trailed by three points six times until Heckard’s 12th kill gave the serve to sophomore middle blocker Kayla Adekweh, where she finished off the set with four straight points, the last being an ace.
Sophomore setter Frankie Dilorio began the third set with four straight points, including a pair of aces before the Knights quickly tied things up. Gahr would never trail in the match but yielded a 17-12 lead when T’sara Jones’ ace made it a 17-17 affair. A kill from senior outside hitter Joelle Miller and two straight aces from senior libero Dymond Johnson increased the Gahr lead to 20-17.
From that point on, both teams traded side outs until a double hit violation on Gahr allowed Katella to tie the score again, this time at 23-23. But a serving error and an ace from Okaro ended the match. Heckard led Gahr with 17 kills and six aces while Okaro added 12 kills. Gahr also had 23 aces with Dilorio contributing with half a dozen and Diggs and Johnson each with another four.
“I’m neutral with how our serving was today,” Murray said. “Today wasn’t our best serving day, but it wasn’t our worst. We missed two serves in a row at the very end with the game on the line. I’m not happy with that. Our serving needs to improve. We’re not the type of team that has giant jump servers.”
Gahr (4-4 overall) will visit league favorite Downey on Tuesday and host Dominguez on Thursday.
“On paper, this is where I wanted to be,” Murray said. “I wanted us to be more mature and more responsible. But I sometimes have to remember that they are teenagers and I have to cut them a little slack. But we need to become more responsible and more mature and be leaders on the court.”

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