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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL Gahr lacking consistency in sweep to Warren, face must-win situation

By Loren Kopff


As the second round of San Gabriel Valley League action began, the Gahr girls volleyball team was still looking for consistent play from its key players. The Gladiators entered its match with Warren with only half a dozen victories but were 3-2 in league action.

Needless to say, wins are beyond critical for Gahr the rest of the way and life became a little bit more challenging for the Gladiators after the Bears came away with a 25-23, 25-19, 27-25 victory this past Tuesday afternoon. It was the first season-series Warren sweep over Gahr since 2009 and the eighth time since 2000. Gahr was hoping to avenge a five-set loss to Warren on Oct. 2, the ninth time these two teams have played to a fifth set since 1998, most for Gahr against any other league team.

“We prepared the best we could,” said Gahr head coach Iris Najera said. “It’s just that my girls…when the momentum is good, we’re great and when the momentum is not so good, we struggle with that. In my opinion, we had the more skilled team and the more athletic team in the gym today.”

Gahr had its best stretch of the match early on when senior setter Frankie Di Iorio served five straight points to give the hosts a 10-5 lead. But the Bears quickly tied the set and Gahr would not lead by more than two points the remainder of the set. Gahr led 22-21 after a serving error but a kill from Samantha Borrego gave Warren the serve where Vanessa Garcia’s ace put the Bears up 24-22.

Gahr lead in the early moments of the second set and had a 6-3 lead following an ace from junior libero Naomi Belgrave. But the turning point of the set came when Eryka Garcia served three straight aces to give the Bears a 12-8 advantage. Gahr would only get to within two points after that, the last coming at 19-17 after a block from senior middle blocker Joselyn Govea.

Through the first two sets, it became apparent that no one or two Gahr players were going to step up and take control. Junior Tyra Parrish was leading Gahr with four kills while senior outside hitter Stephanie Rodriguez and sophomore middle blocker Shantelle Marshall each had three kills. In fact, through the first two sets, Gahr had 16 kills while Vanessa Garcia and Jessica Tellez each had seven kills for the Bears.

“I have a couple of players who I never doubt their fight and their competitiveness,” Najera said. “And I have other players who are very competitive but they don’t bring out their best sometimes. I have been looking to find a consistent hitter.

“My girls are working on being reliable,” Najera later said. “And it’s so late in the season, there’s still so much to learn. I wish I had more time with these girls. But they’re still learning about each other’s responsibilities and being reliable.”

The Gladiators got the start they were looking for in the third set when they raced to a 4-0 lead. Later on, back to back aces from senior defensive specialist Chelsea Marfil tied the set at 12-12. Warren would reel off five straight points before Gahr chipped away little by little. A kill from Rodriguez ended a six-point flurry and gave the Gladiators a 20-19 lead.

Rodriguez, who had a team-high six kills, pounded down her last kill as Gahr staved off match point and a double hit violation put Gahr in front 25-24. But a serving error, an ace from Eryka Garcia and a block from Vanessa Garcia ended the match.

“Sometimes when the momentum is going and we know there’s nothing to lose and we’re playing hard, that’s our game,” Najera said. “It’s just we’re trying to get to do that all the time now instead of just sometimes.”

Gahr visited Paramount on Oct. 23 and will host league-leading and arch nemesis Downey on Tuesday in its final home match of the regular season. Gahr swept Paramount earlier in the season but trail the Pirates by a game in the standings. The Gladiators have won 26 of the past 29 meetings with Paramount. The same can’t be said for Downey, which has taken 30 of the past 33 meetings with Gahr.

“We are in a do-or-die situation,” Najera said. “Paramount is huge. The past couple of times we’ve been to Paramount, we’ve had some good luck. I like playing in that gym, I like coaching in that gym and I think my girls are going to wake up and be hungry for a win. Then next week with Downey, if there is any team in this league that has a chance against Downey, it is us. Maybe we didn’t look like it today, but we’re the team that can knock off Downey.”