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Lady Lancers avenge only league loss, move closer to first title


By Loren Kopff

Having a full squad definitely makes a difference and the Norwalk girls volleyball team benefited from having all of its players when it hosted Cerritos this past Tuesday afternoon. Behind 27 kills, seven aces and three blocks from junior middle blocker Jazmin Guzman, the Lady Lancers got past visiting Cerritos 25-16, 25-18, 15-25, 25-17.

The win was payback as the Lady Dons gave Norwalk its only Suburban League loss on Oct. 3. In that match, Norwalk took the first two sets, then lost three players to various reasons and Cerritos took advantage by winning the next three sets. But this time, everyone was present and accounted for in what Norwalk head coach Jessie Gonzalez called a “total team effort”.

“I think it showed,” he said. “We dominated pretty much every set we won. As you can tell, [sophomore libero] Kathleen Perez makes a huge difference in the back row defensively. Then having the other role players like [freshman outside hitter] Athena Sio and [senior opposite hitter] Daniela Lozada…they filled in their roles well. I’m not asking anybody to have superstar numbers because we play as a team.”

“Considering that they beat us, we’ve been waiting for this,” said Norwalk senior setter Dayna Moreno.

Norwalk dominated the first set after trailing 2-0. Guzman had a pair of kills as the hosts built a 4-2 lead and never looked back. Six different players had at least one kill as Norwalk pounded down 16 kills in the set.

The Lady Lancers (12-6 overall, 8-1 in league), who were moved up to eighth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AA coaches top 10 poll, led in the second set until senior outside hitter Mariah Gonzalez slammed her fourth straight kill to give Cerritos a 12-11 lead. But shortly afterward, Guzman posted her 11th kill, then served four straight aces. Guzman accounted for 13 points in the set.

“I always have faith that we can come back because we’ve done it a few times this year,” said Cerritos first-year head coach David Cuthbert. “But it’s not a nice way to coach. We were just flat to start with. We just didn’t play up to our potential. What was disappointing was we just made some silly errors.”

Cerritos (10-9, 6-3) dominated the third set from beginning to end as junior outside hitter Madison Lee served four straight points to give her team a 5-1 lead. Then with Cerritos up 7-5, Mariah Gonzalez served three straight aces to help the Lady Dons forge a 12-5 lead. Between the third and fourth sets, Jessie Gonzalez had the look of, ‘oh no, not again’ but Guzman quickly changed his thoughts as she opened Norwalk’s fourth set scoring with two straight kills and a combined block with Sio. Then Guzman had back to back aces to give Norwalk a 7-3 lead and Cerritos wouldn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way.

“We can’t let up,” Moreno said. “We have to keep pushing and keep fighting and when we have the momentum on our side, we can’t let it go.”

Somewhat lost in the mix of Norwalk’s offense, which produced 54 kills and six blocks, but definitely not forgotten is the stellar work put in by Moreno, who has been highly praised by Jessie Gonzalez for the past two seasons.

“I can tell you this right now, if we didn’t have Dayna, we wouldn’t be in first place,” he said. “I don’t think any other setter in this league or even what I saw in the [preseason] tournaments moves the ball like [the way she does].”

Sio and senior outside hitter Viviana Gomez each added seven kills while Lozada pitched in six kills as Norwalk travelled to Bellflower on Oct. 31. Norwalk could win its first league championship on Monday with a win at La Mirada before closing the regular season against John Glenn on Wednesday.

“We prepare game by game but in that preparation, we’re also preparing ahead of time,” Jessie Gonzalez said. “I try to stay a step ahead of the competition, which is what we did this week, strategizing for Cerritos.”

Mariah Gonzalez led the Lady Dons with 19 kills while senior right side hitter Jody Suski added 10 kills. Junior middle blockers Crystal Amalu and Kaitlyn Bales each pitched in with eight kills as Cerritos was eliminated from any chance of winning a league title.

“She was great,” Cuthbert said of Bales. “I don’t think she likes purple because two of her better games have come against Norwalk, hitting-wise. She was definitely on point for us today.”

Sophomore libero Nicole Medina had 19 digs followed by 18 from Mariah Gonzalez and 14 from Suski. Cerritos hosted Glenn on Oct. 31 and will entertain Mayfair on Monday before visiting Artesia on Wednesday.

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