_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK


Cerritos aces non-league test in sweep against Gahr

Cerritos High senior middle blocker Muna Okoli attempts to get a kill past the combined block of Gahr High junior outside hitter Pili Tepora and sophomore middle blocker Mariah Iosua in last Friday’s non-league match. Cerritos swept Gahr 25-18, 25-17, 25-18. Photo by Armando Vargas.


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


The Cerritos High and Gahr High girls volleyball teams don’t face each other often, not even in a non-league match. But the two hooked up last Friday and it’s easy to see why Cerritos is at least a solid second place team in the Suburban League, challenging Mayfair High for first place.

The Lady Dons’ serving was spot on, posting 22 aces, and the team got yet another well-balanced attack to the tune of 34 kills in a 25-18, 25-17, 25-18 sweep that left the team at 9-2 overall.

“We made a concerted effort to improve our schedule this year; play some good teams,” said Cerritos head coach David Cuthbert. “And Gahr is one of them. They had a great year last year. I don’t know if we planned it, but it’s timed really nicely coming out of the Valley Christian Tournament with some positives, and then having a really big, exciting home game and a big crowd.”

Gahr was leading 5-1 in the opening set before the hosts scored six of the next seven points of the set. But the Lady Gladiators came back to take a 10-7 lead on the strength of an ace from junior middle blocker Olanna Olumba and two straight kills from sophomore outside hitter Hunter Thomas. The teams would go back and forth until a kill from sophomore right side hitter Nicole Blue began what would be seven straight points to end the set with a kill. Junior defensive specialist Sidney Pasion would serve six of those points, including four aces.

“We switched her up to a different spot today and she can serve tough,” Cuthbert said. “She listened to the scouting report and did what we wanted. We managed to get them out of system and we managed to get [our servers] to put the ball in between some players.”

“Cerritos did an excellent job serving tough and executing in their offense the entire match, and their run started at the end of the first set,” said Gahr head coach Iris Najera.

It was all Cerritos in the second set as it never trailed despite the Lady Gladiators staying close a few times. Cerritos was up 8-2 after junior outside hitter Samantha Oh had a pair of aces around a net violation. Gahr came back with four straight points but wouldn’t get closer than two points the remainder of the set. After getting eight aces in the first set, the Lady Dons added seven more while Blue continued to pace the offense. She would end the set with six kills and led everyone with nine for the match.

“The team has been bonding and they’ve been very supportive,” Blue said. “So, it makes it a lot easier.”

“She’s had a couple of matches where she’s gone over 10 [kills],” Cuthbert said. “But the nature of the way she played today…we threw her the ball in some challenging spots where we would get a little stuck and she was our release. We were looking for her to get us out of the funk. She came through today. We’re just really excited about how much she has improved.”

The third set was similar to the first in that Gahr led early, 4-2, before both teams went back and forth. There were 11 ties and six lead changes in the set as Cerritos served seven more aces. Gahr was up 16-15 when senior middle blocker Muna Okoli’s fourth kill gave her team the serve. Then, she set down two aces followed by a block from senior middle blocker Kelly Amalu and Blue’s final kill.

The Lady Gladiators then got kills from senior opposite hitter Carissa Ayala and Thomas before Pasion reeled off four straight points to end the match, two of which were her fifth and sixth aces and the other two were kills by Amalu, her seventh and eighth.

“Sidney is very competitive,” Blue said. “Her aggressiveness really helps us in tough situations.”

“Yes, they are a very strong serving team,” Najera said. “We learned a lot about what we need to work on after this match.”

Cerritos senior outside hitter Amber Han had a quiet afternoon, posting half a dozen kills while Okoli had six aces. Oh, who usually teams with Han in getting a high number of kills, was held to three but she also had three aces while sophomore setter Emily Pasion served four aces.

“We’re a little bit of a risk-reward serving team,” Cuthbert said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve had a lot of service errors. But just the way we try to set up and play, we want to serve tough to try and create some opportunities. We got it right today.”

Cerritos hosted La Mirada High on Sept. 28 and will be home to Norwalk High on Tuesday to begin the second round of league play. The Lady Dons will also entertain John Glenn High on Thursday. For Gahr, Thomas had eight kills followed by five from Olumba. The Lady Gladiators, who went 16-10 last season, fell to 2-8 at the time. The unusually slow start caught Cuthbert by surprise.

“I didn’t know [Gahr’s record] because I don’t look at that because it can vary dramatically depending on who you schedule,” Cuthbert said. “They’ve played some tough teams this year and we watched them in the Valley Christian Tournament and they played tight there. They can play.”

“I am comfortable with our record,” Najera said. “I planned to challenge the team with a tough preseason schedule. Our losses were all learning lessons and my team is getting better every day.”