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OLYMPIC LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL Valley Christian keeps surging for long-awaited Olympic League title

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

The balance of power in the Olympic League has taken a big turn and now, all of the focus is on the Valley Christian girls volleyball team. After watching Village Christian High win the past two league titles and Whittier Christian High taking home four straight before that, Valley Christian is in complete control this season.

Valley Christian knocked off defending California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-AA champion and Division II state finalist Village Christian 25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 25-18 last Thursday to move closer to the school’s first league championship since 2001.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years and it’s different,” said Valley Christian head coach Melody Nua. “You have teams like Village, [which] has just outshined everybody for so long. And then you run into a Valley Christian, [which] has had moments where they’ve been great, and then moments where they haven’t been great.”

Valley Christian got out to a strong start in the first set as junior setter Megan Lim and sophomore outside hitter Aubrey Schwieger each had an ace as Valley Christian bolted out to a 5-1 lead. After Village Christian scored the next five points, Valley Christian responded when senior libero Kaylee Westra served eight straight points with three aces while junior outside hitter Madison Holmes added four kills.

Holmes and Schwieger would be on fire in the set, combining for 11 kills, while senior opposite hitter Chloe DeVries added another three kills. Valley Christian was looking to go up two sets to none but couldn’t hold a four-point lead late. Village Christian scored the final eight points of the set as Ella Benward and Brenna Wolfe combined for six kills down the stretch.

“I thought we did pretty well in the first set,” Nua said. “Every time we play Village…we’ve done well against them in the past and this is the first year we are able to come in and be one [set] up For them, that was huge. The first set, we went in with a lot of confidence. We went in knowing what we do really well, which is serving. We just gave it to them as hard as we could, as fast as we could and the best that we could.”

But Valley Christian rallied back in the third set with Schwieger serving three straight aces to help give her team a 5-1 lead. Later on, she had back to back aces as the hosts led 14-9. While Village Christian never led in the set, other than a brief 1-0 advantage, it was able to tie things up at 17-17 and 21-21. Schwieger’s 13th kill and a double hit violation gave Valley Christian a two-point lead, which it maintained until the end.

Again, a fast start in the fourth set was what Valley Christian needed as Lim served three straight aces early on. Village Christian would come back and take a 10-9 lead on an ace from Lydia Roledar. But a serve into the net and consecutive kills from senior middle blocker Ann Vande Vegte gave Valley Christian the lead again which it would not relinquish. Valley Christian would end the match with five straight points, the last three on aces from Holmes.

“I’ve always thought it was our defense,” Nua said of the turning point of the match. “We struggled with our block a little bit, so maybe taking out that factor and letting our defense take the bulk of the ball. We’ve been doing that a lot in practices, just no blocking and playing defense and being fearless.”

Holmes led all hitters with 17 kills while Schwieger added 15 kills and served nine aces. But it was the bench play of DeVries (nine kills) and Vande Vegte (six kills) that grew the attention of Nua.

“When we get into bigger matches, I think those are going to be the girls who are going to win the game,” Nua said. “It’s not going to be the superstars. The superstars are going to do their thing, but it’s our bench kids…we’re so fortunate to have Ann or Chloe to come in and really put in some good balls for us.”

Valley Christian’s season series sweep over Village Christian was its first since 2012. Since then, Village Christian had swept Valley Christian five out of the last six times before this season. Valley Christian kept its momentum going with a 23-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-16 victory over Whittier Christian this past Tuesday to improve to 13-10 overall and 6-0 in the league. The win clinched at least a share of the league crown. Valley Christian hosted Maranatha High on Oct. 20 and will travel to Heritage Christian High on Tuesday to round out the regular season. The six league wins are the most by Valley Christian since 2006 and the program has not gone undefeated in league action since 2001.

“We don’t like to get ahead of ourselves,” Nua said. “We take one match at a time; one set at a time. The girls know where we stand. They know that we’ve won five matches [in league]. But one thing we always have to make sure is we stay humble and we just keep working our butts off.”