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Cerritos has relative ease with Whitney in preview of the future

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


In the first nine days of the 2017 regular season, the Whitney High girls volleyball team has faced three teams that it will see a lot more of in the upcoming years. The Lady Wildcats had previously lost to Artesia High and John Glenn High in five sets and were facing Cerritos High to cap off a tour of future 605 League opponents.

But the Lady Dons showed no signs of letdown in just its second match of the season and swept the ‘Cats 25-13, 25-16, 25-9 last Thursday afternoon at Cerritos. Whitney dropped its third match of the season.

“We’ve been good in spurts,” said Cerritos head coach David Cuthbert. “I’ve been impressed with some things point by point but we need to get better at stringing positive plays together to create more pressure on our opponents.”

Cerritos had no problems stringing points together in the first set as it jumped to a 5-0 lead thanks to the serving of senior setter Tracery Nakamura, who had a pair of aces in that sequence. After Whitney scored the next three points, Cerritos put the set away when junior outside hitter Samantha Oh reeled off nine straight points. Of those nine points, Oh had three straight aces, senior outside hitter Amber Han had three kills and sophomore setter Emily Pasion added a pair of kills.

In fact, the Lady Dons got contributions from several players as four players recorded at least a kill and two others had an ace. Meanwhile, Whitney could only post half a dozen kills.

In the second set, the Lady Wildcats tried to stay close early, trailing 14-6 following a net violation. But Nakamura, serving last in the first rotation, served four straight points and the visitors from the east side of town would get to within eight points one more time in the set.

“Our passing wasn’t very great this game; it had been for the last couple of games,” said Whitney junior middle blocker Taylor Genera. “We haven’t been practicing it that much because it had been so good. So, I think we just stepped back a little in our passing and if we would have had it, we would have a better chance [of winning].”

As was the case in first two sets, the Lady Dons set the tone early with their serving. First, it was Nakamura’s two aces in the early minutes of the opening set. Then Oh had three straight aces in the second to make it 4-0. In the third, Pasion had three aces as part of a 5-0 start, followed by two more from Oh as Cerritos built an 11-1 lead.

“Serving is always the first line of offense and if you can put the opposition out of system, then you are going to create good opportunities,” Cuthbert said. “I was a little frustrated with some of the serving errors today and that will be a point of focus over the next week; to limit errors while consistently serving tough. Creating a lead often puts players at ease and lets them play at a high level. But we are striving to have players play at a high level regardless of the score.”

Both teams would trade points until Pasion served five consecutive points, including one more ace. While the Lady Dons were able to put together seven scoring sprees of four points or more, Whitney had one spurt of five straight points and another one of four straight points. The Lady Wild Cats were held to 18 kills with Genera leading the way with four while senior outside hitter Juliann Chou and freshman outside hitter Nika Fedorova each added three kills. In addition, Genera served three aces and had a block. It’s expected that the players will generate much of the offense this season for the Lady Wildcats.

“I feel like if all of us are having a good day, we’re on top of it,” Genera said. “But some of us might not be having good days and [Whitney head coach Ole Nervik] tries to substitute us to keep us on our good days.”

Oh led Cerritos with 11 kills while sophomore right side hitter Nicole Blue and Han pitched in with 10 and eight kills respectively. Those three combined for 10 of the 13 kills Cerritos would get in the third set. Also having a big day was senior middle blocker Muna Okoli, who contributed with five kills and a block.

“I’ve been impressed with Amber,” Cuthbert said. “She was recently selected by the players as a team captain. I think the team will look to her a lot this year. Like all our players, she has worked hard over the offseason and I’m hopeful that she will see the fruits of her labor.

“Both Muna and Nicole are super athletic,” he added. “Nicole was ranked in the top 10 for 400m runners in the state as a freshman. I think that between them, they will really help balance our attack and give us weapons across the front line. At times last year, we became a little one dimensional. But with some players stepping up, Emily will have a lot of choices of where to go with the ball. We will put a lot of responsibility into her hands this year to make good decisions with the ball.”

Cerritos began Suburban League action on Sept. 7 at Norwalk High and will visit John Glenn on Tuesday before hosting Mayfair High on Thursday in a critical early season tilt. Whitney will visit Crean Lutheran High today and St. Margaret’s High on Wednesday for the first two matches of Academy League action, the final season of that league. Beginning next season, Cerritos and Whitney will face each other twice with more at stake.

“I feel like we more of a chance winning those games than we would have playing the other teams that we have been playing for the last couple of years,” Genera predicts. “If anything, we have more of a chance next year winning any of them in our [new] league.”

“Over the past couple of years, we have had the upper hand [against Whitney] but we don’t take anyone for granted,” Cuthbert said. “It’s exciting to have another rivalry game with a school so close to us. I’m sure it will bring the best out in both programs.”