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Gonzalez ignites Cerritos’ comeback win against Norwalk


Pictograms of Olympic sports - Volleyball (ind...


By Loren Kopff

Coming off a season in which the Norwalk girls volleyball team finished in third place in the Suburban League with an 8-4 mark, its best league record since 1999, the Lady Lancers were primed to contend for a league title. But somebody forgot to tell Cerritos that it is part of that league championship discussion as well.

Down two sets to none, the Lady Dons, with senior outside hitter Mariah Gonzalez leading the charge, stormed back to steal a crucial early league season match from Norwalk 18-25, 19-25, 26-24, 25-18, 17-15 last Thursday afternoon at Cerritos.

“We started really flat,” said Cerritos first-year head coach David Cuthbert. “It’s an issue we’ve had all year. We usually put ourselves in a hole early in games and we just couldn’t dig ourselves back out of it.”

Norwalk had it going in the first two sets, getting 14 kills from junior middle blocker Jazmin Guzman and eight more from senior outside hitter Viviana Gomez. Some of those kills were easy tip shots at the net as the Lady Dons led only once in the first two sets, and that was by one point in the first set. Of the 18 points Cerritos recorded in the first set, six were off of Norwalk serving errors and another four were aces. Cerritos posted only 14 kills in the first two sets with Gonzalez getting five.

“When our passing unit’s not as good, our setter really has one option,” Cuthbert said of Gonzalez. “They keyed in on her early. She had a lot of double blocks and but she really came back for us today.”

“I think we were intimidated hearing that they beat Mayfair,” Gonzalez said. “We let that get to our heads.”

But that all changed in the third set, partly because of a lineup change by Norwalk. The third set featured 15 ties and seven lead changes with no lead being greater than three points. Norwalk had a 22-20 lead but a serving error and two straight kills from senior right side hitter Jody Suski put Cerritos up 23-22. Then with the set tied at 24-24, Gonzalez closed it out with her 16th and 17th kills. She had 12 kills in that set alone.

“I think what I said to them after the second set was I don’t need heroes out there,” Cuthbert said. “I don’t need somebody to go off and score 12 points. I don’t need the best serve of your life. I just need what we do in practice. I need communication.”

“He was telling us we shouldn’t give up,” Gonzalez said. “I had faith in my team that we could pull through.”

Norwalk was without the services of three players by the middle of the match as junior defensive specialist Anna Bustos had to leave due to a family matter and injuries sidelined senior opposite hitter Daniela Lozada and freshman outside hitter Athena Sio. As a result, Norwalk got only 11 kills in the third set, all but two coming from Gomez or Guzman.

With Gonzalez dominating the third set, Cerritos went to its supporting cast in the fourth set as Suski and junior middle blocker Crystal Amalu both picked up four kills while junior middle blockers Kaitlyn Bales and Brittney Freeman combined for another four kills. An ace from junior setter Lorinet Marquez gave the Lady Dons their biggest lead of the match at 16-13 and Norwalk wouldn’t get closer the remainder of the set.

“It’s really important for us to get balance,” Cuthbert said. “When we have a hitting leader like Mariah, we can often overuse her. But if we want to be successful long term in this season, we need to make sure that everybody is getting involved. Kaitlyn really came out of the woodworks for us. We took the setting responsibility away from her and had her focus on hitting and blocking. She was big for us.”

The two teams nearly traded every side out in the fifth set as there were 13 ties but three lead changes. A kill from Bales put Cerritos up 14-13 but a net violation tied it up. Suski then put Cerritos up 15-14 but a serving error made it 15-15. After Norwalk’s serve went wide, Mariah Gonzalez ended the match with a tip kill over Guzman. It was the 25th kill for Gonzalez, who also had 17 digs.

“It gives us new motivation because it tells us we can pull through in those tense situations,” Mariah Gonzalez said.

“I just told them [after the match] that we don’t want to be a team that gives up a game that easy; that we couldn’t give up three straight sets,” Jessie Gonzalez said.

Suski had 15 kills and 19 digs while Bales added nine kills. Sophomore libero Nicole Medina pitched in with 16 kills.

Cerritos (7-7 overall, 3-1 in league) would sweep John Glenn 25-11, 25-21, 25-14 this past Tuesday and faced Mayfair on Oct. 10. It will host Artesia on Tuesday before visiting Bellflower on Thursday. The Lady Lancers (7-6, 3-1) were led by Guzman, a match-high 26 kills, and Gomez (16 kills). Norwalk, which swept Bellflower this past Tuesday, hosted first place La Mirada on Oct. 10 and will visit Glenn on Tuesday.

“I don’t like to predict and I don’t like to boast about ourselves or any other team because you never know how things are going to go,” Jessie Gonzalez said. “Like I said at the beginning of the season, it’s a coin toss.”

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