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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Gahr goes the distance with Downey but falls in five sets, shares SGVL title

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


The Gahr High girls volleyball program had not gone wire to wire in the San Gabriel Valley League since 1998 and had won an outright title one other time since then, which came in 2016. The Lady Gladiators had a chance to do both this past Tuesday afternoon when they hosted the queens of the league, Downey High.

The Vikings have owned the league since 1999 and the Lady Gladiators went as far as they could with their nemesis, rallying to win the fourth set to force a fifth set. But in the end, it was the Vikings that survived the match, 17-25, 26-24, 25-13, 22-25, 15-13 to snap Gahr’s winning streak at eight matches. Gahr will enter the CIF-Southern Section playoffs with an 18-7 overall mark, 9-1 in league.

“Great game, well fought by our opponent,” said Gahr head coach Iris Najera on the match. “I’m really proud of the way [we] played. I know they all really tried their best and they worked really well together. But unfortunately, we just lost by a couple of points.”

The edge that Gahr needed in the first set came when it was leading 6-5. A kill from junior setter Louisa Black allowed junior setter Afioga Tone to serve, in which she reeled off four straight points. The Vikings were unable to put together more than three straight points at any time in the set.

The second set was much tighter as there were 14 ties and nine lead changes. The largest lead by Gahr was three points, which came at 8-5 and two points by Downey, which occurred twice. The first at 3-1 and the second at the end of the set. The Vikings would then keep their momentum as they bolted out to a 9-1 in the third set and cruised to the 12-point victory.

“I thought we had a hard time siding out,” Najera said. “But even though we lost that one set, I was still confident in the team that we were going to pull back and win the fourth set.”

The fourth set was another close contest with six ties, two lead changes and no lead greater than four points. The final kill of the match came on a dink from junior middle blocker Mariah Uini on a long serve from Justine Martinez.

The fifth set was all one could expect with so much on the line with 11 ties, three lead changes and no lead greater than two points. That came when senior outside hitter Tepora Pili had a block to make it 3-1. Jessica Santana’s ace would tie the set and the teams would go back and forth until a kill from Celestial Ropati, who led everyone with 30, sandwiched around a pair of serving errors gave Downey the win.

Uini led the Lady Gladiators with 18 kills, followed by 16 from junior outside hitter Hunter Thomas, 14 from senior middle blocker Olanna Olumba and 12 from senior middle blocker Nneoma Izima.

“I absolutely knew this was going to be a big game at the end, and we prepared for it as a big game,” Najera said.

In other girls volleyball action, the regular season ended on this past Tuesday for the six members of the 605 League, except for Cerritos High, which swept Paramount High this past Wednesday. Norwalk High and Valley Christian High saw their regular seasons conclude on Oct. 11. The playoff brackets will be released on Saturday with wild card matches (if necessary) beginning on Tuesday and first round matches commencing on Thursday. Cerritos (23-3 overall, 10-0) and Whitney High (14-7, 7-3) are the top two teams in the 605 League. Norwalk was 5-10 overall and 3-5 in the Suburban League entering its Oct. 11 match with Suburban League champion Mayfair High while V.C. was 17-12 overall and 3-4 in the Olympic League as it hosted Maranatha High on Oct. 11.


Artesia (4-3) @ John Glenn (4-3)-The new 605 League kicks off tonight and with three weeks remaining in the regular season, each week will seem like there is no margin for error with any of the four teams. But, someone has to win this contest and defense will play a huge part of it. Artesia has senior quarterback Heder Gladden, who already has over 1,000 yards on the ground, another 555 through the air and is responsible for 25 touchdowns, and senior running back Travys Davis, who has over 700 yards on the ground and 11 total touchdowns. Glenn counters with senior quarterback David Sanchez, senior wide receiver Tim Stevenson and junior running back Edwin Udengwu, the latter who also has over 1,000 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns. Defense could be optional in this contest as Glenn, which moved from ninth to sixth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 poll, won last season’s game 44-41, snapping a five-game losing streak to the Pioneers. During that five-game winning streak, the Pioneers outscored Glenn 235-80.

Pioneer (5-2) @ Cerritos (3-4)-The other first 605 League contest figures to be another test for a Cerritos program that is still trying to prove to many that it has what it takes to get to the playoffs. The Dons were blasted by Ocean View High 56-13 last Friday night for their second straight loss. Pioneer, formerly of the Del Rio League, was edged by Bishop Montgomery High 26-25 last Friday, which snapped a three-game winning streak. During that stretch, the Titans outscored their opponents 150-23. Two Pioneer quarterbacks have combined to throw for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns opposite one interception. The rushing attacked is balanced as 12 different carriers have combined for over 1,300 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Titans defense has also sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times., led by Adrian Hernandez (eight sacks).

Gahr (3-4, 2-0 in the San Gabriel Valley League) @ Warren (4-3, 1-1)-Reality sets in with Gahr as it travels to the city of Downey, where it has gone 2-14 against the Bears and Downey High since 1998. Warren is coming off a 24-21 setback to Paramount High last Friday night while Gahr blasted Lynwood High 61-6 for its second straight victory. Warren quarterback Chris Venegas has thrown for 1,602 yards, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bears are ranked ninth in Division 7.

Norwalk (0-7) @ Mayfair (5-2)-The Suburban League opener sees no comfort for the Lancers, who are in the midst of one of the worst seasons in school history. Norwalk, coming off a bye last Friday, has scored 56 points this season and only eight touchdowns while the defense has yielded over 30 points six times. The Monsoons also had its bye last Friday and enter tonight’s contest both scoring and allowing over 200 points. Quarterback Joshua Calvin (1,258 yards, 16 touchdowns, two interceptions) lead the Monsoons air attack while Tstrong Mataele (586 yards, 10 touchdowns) paces the rushing attack. Mayfair is also ranked sixth in Division 6.