_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Holmes, Schwieger power Valley Christian to easy sweep over Downey

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


From the first server of the match, it was evident that the Valley Christian High girls volleyball team was going to have its way with visiting Downey High this past Tuesday night. Senior setter Megan Lim and junior outside hitter Aubrey Schwieger combined for the first five points of the match.

After that, the Lady Crusaders put together an all-around attack that included the one-two punch of Schwieger and senior outside hitter Madison Holmes, plus timely serving in a 25-11, 25-12, 25-18 victory. It was V.C.’s third sweep in 10 matches this season and put the team two games above .500.

V.C. raced out to leads of 5-0 and 13-3 in the first set, 6-1 and 15-6 in the second set and 9-3 and 13-5 in the third set. In fact, the Vikings did not score more than two straight points until the third set.

“Last week, we kind of got outplayed in the beginning of sets,” said V.C. first-year head coach Jeff Ornee. “I felt like we were down probably eight, nine, 10 points in the beginning of sets and it’s really hard to come back from stuff like that. So, our focus today was to start every game strong and I felt we did that, especially in the serving game.

“We’re not tall, we’re not super athletic, we’re not going to out-jump a lot of teams,” he continued. “But I think we can out-serve and out-ball control teams and I thought we did that tonight.”

With the Lady Crusaders up 8-3 in the opening set, a serve into the net put the ball in the hands of senior libero Hannah Buckley, who promptly recorded three straight aces. She would have four aces in the set plus the two Lim had in the opening moments. In addition to the six aces, Holmes and Schwieger combined for 11 kills in the set. Also getting into the offensive action were senior middle blocker Anneka Bakker (two kills, one block) and junior opposite hitter Candice Palmer (one kill, one block).

It was more of the same in the second set with Holmes and Schwieger each getting two kills early, plus a Holmes block and Schwieger ace. Once again, those two dominated the set, accounting for 16 points with Lim serving two more aces and Buckley and Palmer an ace each. When the match had ended, the Lady Crusaders had served 21 aces.

“It’s a huge emphasis,” Ornee said. “My goal for this team was to be the best serving team and the best passing team. We’re still a long ways away, but I think we’re making progress anytime we get out there. I think we have a solid serving squad and we’re just going to continue to improve as far as the season goes.”

Downey led for the only time in the match at 3-1 in the third set. But following a kill from Holmes, Schwieger reeled off seven consecutive points, including four aces. Shortly after that, Buckley added three more of her team-high eight aces. Schwieger would collect six kills in the set to lead V.C. with 18 while Holmes finished with a dozen kills. Those two, as they were last season, will be a vital part of V.C.’s offense this season.

“It’s huge,” Ornee said of the two power hitters. “It’s repeating from last year; our same outsides who kind of held us down last year. They’ve only improved over the offseason, getting better and [being] a little bit more healthy. So, we’re going to ride them until they break and hopefully, they don’t break. They’re our offense and I think every team we play knows they’re our offense. It’s just up to them to stop them and so far, they haven’t been able to.”

V.C. visited St. Anthony High on Sept. 14 and will host their own tournament, along with Bellflower High, on Saturday where it will face La Mirada High, Lancaster Baptist High and Westridge High in pool play action. Then, the Lady Crusaders will open defense of their 2016 Olympic League championship against Village Christian High on Tuesday. Village Christian finished in second place last season, three games behind Valley Christian.

“Village was the toughest competition last year,” Ornee said. “I’m not sure exactly how many seniors they graduated, but they’re always a tough squad. Again, it’s going to come to the serving and passing and just being solid from the outsides.”