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Cerritos falls short to Mayfair in battle for second place

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 By Loren Kopff

With two matches remaining in the regular season, two games separated four teams between first and third place in the Suburban League. Cerritos, tied with La Mirada for third place, was hoping to catch second place Mayfair and improve its chances of hosting a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AA first round playoff match.

Despite missing the services of junior middle blockers Kaitlyn Bales and Brittney Freeman to knee and leg injuries respectively, the Lady Dons nearly sent Mayfair to a fifth and deciding set. But the Monsoons held on for a 25-21, 25-18, 26-28, 28-26 win over host Cerritos this past Monday to clinch second place and send the Lady Dons to third place.

“I was frustrated with so many errors we were making,” said Cerritos first-year head coach David Cuthbert. “I thought we were playing well but we just kept letting them off the hook with some service errors and some bad passing.”

The first set featured 13 ties and five lead changes with no lead greater than two points until Amy Kvapil served three straight points to give Mayfair a 21-18 lead late. Minutes later, a net violation brought Cerritos back to within a point but Alexia Duarte served the final two points including an ace.

Mayfair controlled the second set by jumping out to a 9-3 lead and when Cerritos made it 15-12 thanks to an ace from senior outside hitter Abigail Ligon and two straight net violations, the Monsoons quickly increased the lead to 19-12.

Things heated up in the third set as a kill from junior middle blocker Crystal Amalu put Cerritos up 13-8, its biggest lead of the match. But Mayfair rallied to take a 20-18 lead before the Lady Dons regained the lead at 24-20 on an ace from sophomore libero Nicole Medina.

“We’re both good teams and that’s what is suppose to happen,” Cuthbert said of the momentum swings of the third set. “We’re supposed to be able to put some points together and they’re a good team and they put points together on us. It’s really important that we ride momentum and we did at times, but we gave it up a few times, too.”

A kill from Mayfair’s Katie Fisher gave the serve to Jasmine Holiday where she reeled off four straight points. Eventually, Cerritos won the set on an ace from senior right side hitter Jody Suski and a lift violation. There were 11 ties and seven lead changes in the third set and it was more of the same in the fourth set with 15 ties and six lead changes.

Cerritos trailed by three points twice in the set before Suski’s ace near the back line enabled her team to tie the set at 20-20.

The Lady Dons were at set point when Medina put down her third kill but a net violation halted that chance. Then Mayfair was serving for the match before a kill from senior outside hitter Mariah Gonzalez off the top of Mayfair’s Linzee Guerrero made it 26-26. The match ended on a controversial call as a potential kill from Suski appeared to have glanced off of a Mayfair player. But the head referee ruled it sailed out of bounds.

“Coaches on both sides were disappointed with some of the calls, so I’m not going to hang the loss on that,” Cuthbert said. “We have to be able to keep it in our hands. It’s never nice to lose that way.”

Gonzalez led everyone with 16 kills while Suski added 14 kills. Amalu pitched in with seven kills while freshman middle blocker Ifoma Okoli, who was called up from the junior varsity team to replace Bales, added half a dozen kills and two combined blocks.

“She was huge for us,” Cuthbert said of Okoli. “She’s been playing volleyball for two months and just volleyball stuff aside, just having the attitude to go out there and not shy away and play big and try to block balls and hit…we can’t be more pleased with her. And we had [senior outside hitter] Brittney Diaz playing all the way around and she was a spark plug for us.”

This past Wednesday, the Lady Dons wrapped up the regular season with a 25-13, 25-10, 25-17 win over Artesia to end the regular season at 12-10 overall with a league mark of 8-4. Gonzalez led the Lady Dons with 16 kills while Suski had 10 kills. Cerritos had 19 aces in the match with six coming from senior defensive specialist Rachael Fitterer and five from senior outside hitter Abigail Ligon. Artesia was led by its all-everything player, senior middle blocker Daisy Briseno, who had 14 of her teams’ 22 kills.

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