_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________



By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

Through the first eight matches of the season, the Gahr High girls volleyball match hasn’t had much success getting out of the gates early. Head coach Iris Najera has seen her team win a first set only twice and has won the first two sets once, albeit in a best two out of three format in the recent Dave Mohs Tournament.

So when the Gladiators were up on Marina High 2-0 this past Tuesday, it looked as if they would post their first three-set sweep in 2016. A lackluster performance in the third set was offset by a ferocious rally in the fourth set that gave Gahr a 25-22, 25-18, 19-25, 25-20 victory. The win improved Gahr’s mark to 4-5 as it still has one more tournament to participate in plus a non-league match before opening up San Gabriel Valley League action against Lynwood High on Thursday.

“We’ve had a lot of accomplishments; a lot of individual accomplishments and a lot of team accomplishments,” Najera said. “I think just because we haven’t swept a team yet in three, I’m not concerned about that. I do see us getting a little bit better every day and I’m really happy with this win, even though it took us longer than we had wanted to.”

Gahr was in control for most of the first set, holding a lead until a net violation put the Vikings up 20-19. Neither team was able to put together more than three consecutive points until sophomore outside hitter Jazminn Parrish put down her sixth kill, followed by back to back aces from senior libero Alyssa Morada.

After Marina called a timeout, Gahr went up 23-20 on a block from sophomore middle blocker Nneoma Izima. The Vikings then scored a pair of points before Gahr finally put away the set with another block from Izima and a kill from Morada.

Marina opened up the second set on a tear as Abby Hills served consecutive aces to put her team up 5-2. The visitors were still leading by four points before two kills from Parrish and three aces from Morada gave the Gladiators an 11-10 advantage. Later on, with the score tied 16-16, Izima’s fourth kill allowed sophomore middle blocker Kara Green to serve, where she had three aces as part of a seven-point rally.

Gahr was looking for the sweep and was headed in the right direction when junior setter Juliana Carvajal had four straight aces to give the hosts an early 5-0 lead. But Marina stormed back with three straight points and eventually held a 12-10 after the third of three straight aces from Eden Van Waardenburg. Gahr wouldn’t tie the set after that and even though it pulled within two points towards the end, Hills had five kills down the stretch.

“When the other team stepped up on their serves, we had a hard time [with that],” Najera said. “In the second set, they had a lead and we came back. And then in the third set, we had a lead and they came back. I think that’s volleyball; it’s a lot of momentum.”

Marina was riding that momentum into the fourth set and led 12-7 before the Gladiators had its first rally of set. Parrish recorded a kill, followed by a Morada ace and another kill from Parrish. Moments later, Carvajal’s second straight ace gave Gahr a 15-13 lead.

But a double hit violation allowed the Vikings to regain the lead at 19-18, the fourth lead change of the set. Then Gahr’s second and last rally began with a kill from Green, a net violation, kills from senior middle blocker Zanache Stanton and senior outside hitter Alexus Latham, an ace from Green and finally a Stanton block.

Parrish, one of the most dominating hitters in the area, as well as the league, finished with a team-high 17 kills while Stanton added nine kills.

“She’s our all-around player,” Najera said of Parrish. “She is very confident and skilled and talented in every position.”

The serving was also strong as Carvajal led the Gladiators with seven aces, followed by Green and Morada, who both added half a dozen. In all, Gahr recorded 23 aces.

“Our serving is really aggressive and with being aggressive on serving, there’s high risk,” Najera said. “So, we should go for aces and unfortunately, we’re going to miss them and I’m okay with missing some.”

Gahr will participate in the 32-field Valley Christian/Mayfair Tournament that will take place at four different sites on Saturday. Gahr is one of the host sites and the Gladiators will face Baxter High, California High and Eagle Rock High in pool play action, then will have the potential to play four playoff sets in the single elimination playoffs. Gahr will then visit St. Anthony High on Tuesday.