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VALLEY CHRISTIAN-MAYFAIR GIRLS VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT: Lady Crusaders fall to Downey in finals of own tournament, still off to blazing start

By Loren Kopff

LAKEWOOD-The Valley Christian girls volleyball team had begun the last two seasons on a torrid pace, winning its first six matches en route to 21 and 20-victory campaigns respectively. This season, the Lady Crusaders are off to even a better start despite losing in the championship match of the annual Valley Christian-Mayfair Tournament.

At Mayfair High School, V.C. fell apart late against Downey and lost 25-18 in the one-set match that does not go against its overall record. Still, the 8-0 start to 2014 is the best for Valley Christian since 1998 when the Lady Crusaders finished as the USA Today National Champions following a 33-0 season. The loss to Downey was just the second time in 26 sets that V.C. had experienced a loss, which is music to the ears of first-year head coach Melody Nua.

“When we come into the matches, it’s one match at a time, one point at a time,” Nua said. “It’s been great. A lot of the teams we’ve played, we’ve beaten them pretty solidly. Today’s game against Downey was probably the first time that we’re actually seeing a little bit more of better competition for us. When we talk about good losses, I think that’s a pretty good loss. We learned a lot from it.”

The Vikings and Lady Crusaders went back and forth throughout the first half of the finals with neither team leading by more than two points. There were 10 ties and six lead changes. But with Downey up 15-13, senior opposite hitter Karly Dantuma put down her fourth kill and freshman outside hitter Madison Holmes posted back to back kills. Another kill from junior middle hitter Madi Huizar put the Lady Crusaders up 17-15, their largest lead of the match.

However, back to back kills from Bela Gamboa tied the match and the Vikings reeled off another five straight points to put the finals away.

The match ended when Victoria Trejo served an ace that skimmed off the top of the net. Dantuma led the Lady Crusaders with five kills while Gamboa had nine kills. Downey also added five aces.

“I don’t think they’ve ever been in a situation like that,” Nua said. “We had a freshman on the court hitting it outside; hitting the majority of the balls. I think just the pressure was a little new to them. You start to realize who’s going to step up, who’s maybe going to fall apart. We didn’t really rise to the occasion like I thought we would. But again, all things are pretty new.”

V.C. began the all-day tournament with two-set sweeps over Barstow (25-9, 25-8), Artesia (25-9, 25-11) and Calvary Chapel Murrieta (25-20, 25-13). The team then began the playoffs with a 25-9 victory over Faith Baptist followed by a 25-13 triumph over St. Anthony behind Dantuma (six kills), junior middle blocker Katelyn Albani (three kills) and junior libero Allie Sutherlin (three aces). V.C. would also get two aces each from junior defensive specialist Emily McLurg and junior setter Chloe Winter.

The Lady Crusaders then survived a 25-21 semifinal win over La Mirada as Dantuma and Albani paced the Lady Crusaders with six and five kills respectively. V.C. would face Downey again on Sept. 25 before participating in the Whittier Tournament today and Saturday. The Lady Crusaders close out the non league portion of their schedule on Tuesday at Fairmont Prep.

In other tournament action, Artesia (1-4) knocked off Calvary Chapel Murrieta 25-23, 8-25, 15-11 before losing to V.C. and Barstow 25-14, 25-21 in pool play action. The Pioneers were eliminated in the playoffs by San Marino 25-8. Artesia travelled to La Mirada on Sept. 25 and will host John Glenn on Tuesday before visiting Norwalk on Thursday.

Cerritos fell to St. Anthony 25-11, 25-19 before defeating California 20-25, 25-21, 15-8 and losing to Glendale 25-21, 25-23 in pool play action. In the playoffs, the Lady Dons lost to Montebello 25-22. Cerritos (2-8) hosted Bellflower on Sept. 25 and will visit La Mirada on Thursday.

Gahr went 1-2 in pool play action with losses to Bell Gardens (25-22, 14-25, 9-25) and La Mirada (25-18, 25-16) sandwiched around a win against West Covina (25-12, 25-15). In the playoffs, Gahr lost to St. Anthony 25-16. The Gladiators (2-9) will visit Warren on Thursday.

Finally, John Glenn was swept by Downey 25-9, 25-10 and Serra 25-21, 25-22 before sweeping San Marino 25-21, 25-22. The Lady Eagles (4-3) were bounced out by Sunny Hills 25-23 and will participate in the Whittier Tournament today and Saturday before hosting Bellflower on Thursday.