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Norwalk gets away with ‘ugly’ win against Whitney

By Loren Kopff

A win is a win and for Jessie Gonzalez, the second-year head coach of the Norwalk girls volleyball team, he’ll even take an ugly win. That’s what happened last Friday afternoon after the Lady Lancers struggled against a quality Whitney team which was playing its third Suburban League team in four matches.

Norwalk had to earn every point of its 25-22, 25-17, 18-25, 26-24 win but the way both teams were playing, the visitors from the Academy League could have easily won the match in four sets.

“Most of it was just basic serving,” Gonzalez said of his team’s problems. “There were a lot of missed serves which basically gave them possession. And our serving needs to be a little tougher.”

Norwalk never trailed in the first set but the Lady Wildcats (3-1) were able to forge three ties and trail by one as late as 21-20 on an ace from senior setter Allison Tran. But a kill from senior outside hitter Viviana Gomez, an ace from senior setter Dayna Moreno and a kill from freshman outside hitter Athena Sio allowed the Lady Lancers to hang on for the win.

Whitney would grab a 13-8 lead in the second set on the strength of 10 kills from six different players, two aces from sophomore libero Lauren Oh and an ace from senior setter Alice Choi. But Norwalk (3-2) rebounded with five straight points to tie the set and took its first lead on a Gomez kill at 16-15. That was part of six straight points that put the hosts in front 20-15.

“We call it bleeding, where all of a sudden we start bleeding points away,” said Whitney head coach Ole Nervik said. “I think we get comfortable sometimes and we just quit moving our feet.”

Whitney pulled away late in the third set by turning a 17-15 lead to a 23-16 advantage. Of the 25 points scored in that set, Whitney got only 10 kills but received eight aces, three from Oh and two each from Choi and junior defensive specialist Kaili Hamada.

However, the Lady Lancers, a strong favorite to win the league, raced to a 14-9 lead in the fourth set behind seven straight points served from Gomez, including three straight aces.

Whitney would rally to take a 19-18 lead on back to back kills from senior middle blocker Reyna Ta’amu. But Norwalk wouldn’t allow the Lady Wildcats to take a two-point lead the rest of the way. Norwalk junior middle blocker Jazmin Guzman led everyone with 21 kills and three blocks while Gomez and Sio added 15 and 10 kills respectively. Ta’amu led Whitney with 10 kills while Tran had nine kills.

“We’re trying to find the right fit in the middle and in that third set I traded our two middles like a million times,” Nervik said. “If we can fix that piece of the puzzle, I think we have a good shot [of winning].

“I’ve been really surprised with the consistency of our hitting,” he later added. “All of the girls were not consistent at all last year. [Junior outside hitter] Lauren Dejoras is doing a fantastic job.”

“She was a very good middle,” Gonzalez said of Ta’amu. “She was smart. But our fault was our basic defense. She did play a role in our offense not being as good. But at the same time, we have the hitters with enough skill to be able to run an offense to the outsides and to the middle.”

Whitney, which already won its league opener against Downey Calvary Chapel, will visit Sage Hill tonight and Crean Lutheran on Tuesday.

“This is definitely better for us,” Nervik said. “I actually prefer losing in the preseason because that will motivate us more [for league]. I was happy that we were able to play because Norwalk is a good team. We still have a high hill to climb.”

Norwalk, which opened league action on Sept. 26 against Mayfair, will compete in the Whittier Ohana Tournament today and Saturday and travel to Artesia and Cerritos on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.


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