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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 5 GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS Cerritos wastes golden opportunity early, falls in three to second ranked Quartz Hill

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

QUARTZ HILL-From the first serve of the match until the very end of the opening set, the Cerritos High girls volleyball team was in a perfect position to steal a set from Quartz Hill High. The Lady Dons got out to a fast start against the second ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section’s Division 5 and nearly went wire to wire.

But the Rebels held off set point three times and proceeded to sweep the Lady Dons 27-25, 25-16, 25-16 last Saturday night. Cerritos, which tied for second place in the Suburban League, concludes its season at 17-8 overall. It was just the third time all season that the Lady Dons were swept with the other two times coming against league champion and top ranked Mayfair High.

The first two serves of the game were aces from freshman setter Emily Pasion and moments later, sophomore outside hitter Samantha Oh served five straight points, three of which were aces as the Lady Dons built a 9-1 lead. Later in the set, Cerritos went up 18-12 on a block from junior middle blocker Kelly Amalu and still had a six-point lead at 20-14 when the Rebels were called for an over the net violation.

But Quartz Hill ran off four consecutive points and got to within a point when Jordyn Baccus served her team’s second ace of the set. After a serve into the net put Cerritos at set point, the Rebels bounced back with a kill from Melina Lee, then two straight aces from Abigail Adams.

Cerritos head coach Davis Cuthbert would call a timeout and when play resumed, the hosts took their first lead on a kill from Megan Taflinger. Senior outside hitter Andrea Diaz tied the set with a kill before the Rebels stole the set with Taflinger’s sixth kill and an ace from Taylor Mobley.

“It certainly gave us some confidence that we could play,” Cuthbert said of the fast start. :”I think it shook the other team and they were a little surprised of how well we started.

“We struggled passing the ball and they got their best server on the line at the right time,” Cuthbert added on Adams’ late rally. “She’s just a really good server and we just couldn’t get the ball to the people we wanted to get the ball to in that type of setting. We played a little tight and they took advantage of it. I think that set the tone; those last five points for the rest of the game.”

Cerritos was hoping to build back its momentum in the second set when it led 7-4 after a Diaz ace. But Taflinger, who was a thorn in Cerritos’ side, spiked her ninth kill, then served seven straight points and the Rebels never looked back.

Then in the third set, the Lady Dons were never in it, trailing 4-0 and 14-3. Cerritos would score three straight points three times. But in was simply too much of Taflinger, who led everyone with 19 kills. Oh had a team-high 10 kills while junior outside hitter Amber Han added seven kills.

“We kept going all the way but that’s a good team we played,” Cuthbert said. “They exposed us in a couple of matchups and they got the ball where it needed to go. We couldn’t seal with some of the things they did. I was really proud of my girls for sticking it out and continuing to play, continuing to try and do what has been successful for us.”

Cerritos was looking to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009 when the program went all the way to the Division III-A finals. The 17 victories are the most since 2011 when that team finished 21-6. The Lady Dons will lose four players to graduation and are expected to challenge for a league title next season.

“I’m really proud of what we did,” Cuthbert said. “In my four years here, this has been the best group that we’ve had and this has been the most fun I’ve had coaching. I think our record reflected that. We had two fabulous wins in the first two rounds of the playoffs against higher seeded teams and we played really tough in five to come out of those. There are so many highlights for this year.”