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SUBURBAN LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Norwalk ends its Suburban League rivalry with John Glenn in dramatic fashion

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


For the first time since 2007 and sixth time since 1998 a John Glenn High-Norwalk High girls volleyball match went the distance. It’s safe to say that last Thursday’s marathon will be the last time that will happen in a Suburban League contest between the two city rivals.

With Glenn moving to the new 605 League next season, the Lady Eagles wanted to show the home crowd, and their counterparts from the west side of the city, that they can compete with anyone despite what their record shows. But in the end, a long serving rally from Norwalk senior defensive specialist Valerie Zavala in the fifth set paved the way for the Lady Lancers to escape with a 25-21, 25-17, 14-25, 20-25, 15-9 victory to keep their hold on at least third place in league.

“It was very good that a lot of drama that was going on,” said Norwalk assistant coach Omar Tinoco “There were some injuries that took place, for both teams. I think their captain got hurt and our captain got hurt. So, it affected both teams. But they both competed very well.”

Tinoco began taking over practices last week for head coach Eric Lorn, who left for personal reasons, but had told Tinoco what lineups to use earlier in the week.

“I told them that we’ve worked so hard, we’ve come such a long way and let’s just show it,” said Glenn first-year head coach Mariel Turner. “We’re a sixth place team and they’re a third place team but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the court because we’ve worked hard and they’ve worked hard. Let’s just see what happens. Our motto throughout this whole season has been to fight; to just never give up. I think that just really stuck with them today with how close the scores were.”

Norwalk led by as many as nine points in the first set before the Lady Eagles made a charge to make the score more respectable. They recorded three straight points for the third time in the set, then traded points until junior libero Jessica Valdez served three consecutive points, including a pair of aces, to make it a three-point affair.

Glenn held leads of 5-2 and 6-4 in the second set before Norwalk junior outside hitter Marissa Reyna, the team’s best player this season, reeled off six straight points as the visitors forged ahead at 11-7 and never looked back. Again, Norwalk would hold a huge lead before Glenn chipped away and following a kill from junior outside hitter Paola Ramirez, trailed 20-16.

Then, the momentum shifted and with a bang as Glenn senior setter Karina Gomez served the first nine points of the third set with four aces and senior outside hitter Gloria De La Cruz served six straight, along with three aces, moments later for a 16-1 lead. Norwalk got to within six points at 19-13, but Valdez had a pair of aces late to preserve the win. Despite still leading 2-1 in sets played, all was not happy on the Norwalk side.

“The head official coach isn’t here and I think that kind of affected them on how they were playing,” Tinoco said. “They said they didn’t feel comfortable without him here. That affected their mentality, which led to mistakes.”

The Lady Lancers recovered, for a brief time, in the fourth set and led 5-0 and 11-5 before the never-say-give-up Lady Eagles made another charge to steal a win. Down 12-8, Valdez served four straight points on a pair of aces, and a kill and block from junior middle blocker Denise Cardenas. Later in the set and trailing 19-18, junior right side hitter Brianna Tapia served three straight points with De La Cruz getting two more kills in that mini rally. Valdez finally sent the match to a fifth set with two straight aces.

Glenn managed to force a fifth set despite losing Ramirez earlier in the set. With Norwalk up 10-5 after a block from junior middle blocker Esmeralda Aispuro, Ramirez immediately fell to the ground as she injured her left ankle. At that time, she and Cardenas were leading the team with 11 kills. Tapia would replace Ramirez and contributed with the two aces and a pair of kills.

“I think that for each of them, they don’t look at each other as players,” Turner said. “I think they look at each other as sisters. Paola is one of our strongest players on the team. Brianna [is] a great athlete but she’s never played outside one time. She’s been playing right side, she’s been playing middle here and there and in the back row. I just think that when my sisters are down, we have to come together and fight.”

Cardenas would give her team a 4-2 lead in the fifth set with three straight kills and following an ace from junior right side hitter Berenice Santana, Glenn was halfway home with a win at 7-4. But Reyna had two straight kills and Zavala continued to serve five more points.

“I told them this was a very important match leading to [the playoffs] because they have Mayfair next week and that’s going to be another intense game,” Tinoco told his team heading into the fifth set. “So, they needed to win this one. “Valerie is a very strong server. She usually doesn’t play back row, but she serves every game. She’s one of our best servers, so we trust her taking responsibility.”

Reyna would lead the Lady Lancers (14-9 overall, 6-4 in league) with 18 kills while senior middle blocker Tais Guzman quietly pitched in with 15 kills. Aispuro and junior outside hitter Marissa Anguiano each added seven kills.

“The first two sets I felt like she wasn’t aggressive,” Tinoco said of Guzman. “She was kind of rolling and tipping a lot. The last set, she saw that it was a close game and I told her to pick it up.”

Cardenas led everyone with 19 kills and a pair of blocks while De La Cruz added 10 more. The rest of the team combined for 25 kills. Glenn (7-12, 1-9) hosted Artesia High on Oct. 19 and will end the regular season with a home encounter against Bellflower High on Tuesday while the Lady Lancers visited league champion Mayfair High on Oct. 19 and will travel to Artesia on Tuesday.

“I think we’re going to close out this season the same way we came in,” Turner said. “After [this] game, we had a few tears but after I talked about just how far we’ve come and this program and what an accomplishment it’s been seeing…to be [sixth] place in league and to be neck and neck with one of the top three teams to go to the playoffs is such an accomplishment. And I just think that after tonight, it just boosts more confidence to play.”