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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 4 GIRLS VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFFS: Valley Christian rallies from rough beginning, outlasts SVC in five sets


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


What once looked like a very bad start to a CIF-Southern Section Division 4 wild card match turned into one of the best comebacks in the history of the Valley Christian High girls volleyball program. The Lady Defenders found themselves trailing Saddleback Valley Christian High 8-0 in the first set and were trailing two sets to one.

Then V.C. was down 22-20 in the fourth set before pulling away late in the fifth set and eventually a 10-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 15-10 victory this past Tuesday night. The Lady Defenders would draw a first round road match at fourth-ranked and Desert Empire League champion Xavier Prep on Oct. 18.

“That was tough,” said V.C. head coach Jeff Ornee of the beginning of the first set. “They came into the game swinging; they were playing very, very good volleyball right from the beginning of the game. Part of that had to do with we didn’t know anything about them. We didn’t have any stats, we didn’t have a roster on them much. We were trying to figure it out as we went.”

V.C. raced to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set, thanks to three straight aces from sophomore setter Rachel Lim. An ace from sophomore outside hitter Ashlyn Couch towards the end of the first rotation made it 15-9 before the Warriors rallied and eventually took a 22-20 lead. A lift call violation gave the serve to Couch, where she reeled off three straight points, including an ace.

Again, serving would be key in the fifth set as Lim (two points) and senior outside Aubrey Schwieger (three points with two aces) enabled the hosts to build a 6-2 advantage. With the Lady Defenders leading 11-9, a kill from sophomore outside hitter Rachel Gonzales allowed Lim to serve an ace, followed by a kill from junior opposite hitter Megan Bouma. The final point of the match was Schweiger’s 24thkill.

V.C. found itself down 17-4 in the first set before recording three straight points. It was down 5-2 in the second set before tying the set on a net violation. But as the second rotation was beginning, Lim served five consecutive points, two coming off aces and two more of kills from Schwieger. Couch would finish off the Warriors with three straight points, the final two via aces. V.C. would post 20 aces in the match. Ornee credits the serving throughout the match as the momentum swing his team needed.

“A lot of those girls went on good serving runs that I think didn’t happen in the first set because we were kind of playing not to lose at that point,” Ornee said. “We were playing a little bit scared, a little bit timid. So, once they got their legs under their feet a little bit, they started to serve the ball a little bit better.”

With Schwieger’s 24 kills, she now has 292 on the season and 935 for her career. V.C. would likely have to get to the quarterfinals for her to reach 1,000 kills, a milestone in high school volleyball. Gonzales added 15 kills while Bouma pitched in with three kills. Couch, Gonzales and Lim all had 11 digs while Lim had 45 assists.

“She has been incredible,” Ornee said of Schwieger. “My first year here was her freshman year, so I kind of got to grow with her throughout the program. She has just been a stud, she has been the emotional leader, she’s been the heart of this team and I think the team really goes with her wherever she leads them. And tonight, she led them to a good win. We kind of rode her arm and she got most of our sets and most of our kills. She’s everything to this team and we’re going to need her moving forward in the next round.”

The win over Saddleback Valley Christian was only the second time V.C. has played a five-set match and in fact, since Olympic League began on Sept. 11, the Lady Defenders have played in a pair of four-set matches. V.C. improves to 19-12 overall but is 5-6 in its last 11 matches. A win over Xavier Prep would send the Lady Defenders to either a second round home match with Elsinore High or a second round road meeting with Sonora High on Saturday night

“We started off the season strong and I don’t want to make any excuses for why we started to dip, but there were a couple of injuries here and there,” Ornee said. “We’ve been dealing with sicknesses a lot, so a lot of things didn’t go our way throughout the middle of the season. Then we get to league, and our league is tough. The second half of the season didn’t go as I had planned. But they never gave up and I think we are playing our best volleyball of the season.”