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605 LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL – Cerritos claims third straight 605 league title, seventh overall in past 16 seasons

Cerritos high school logo, don

October 6, 2021

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


Cerritos High girls volleyball head coach David Cuthbert doesn’t like to look ahead or get too excited about his teams clinching nothing less than an outright 605 League title before the end of the regular season. His eyes, and those of his players, are locked into improving match by match and eventually finishing undefeated in league action.

He said his team needs to get better and they know they need to get better. Still, after sweeping Whitney High 25-15, 25-23, 25-9 this past Tuesday at Cerritos, Cuthbert added that the last two league matches are matches they are looking to win and to get better at because he believes they need to be playing at a higher level going into the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. The Lady Dons improved to 22-3 overall and are undefeated in eight league matches. Cerritos has won all 28 league contests since the formation of the 605 League with today’s road match at fifth place Pioneer High and Tuesday’s home match against last place John Glenn High standing in the way of another undefeated league campaign.

“When we entered the league, that was the plan…to be the dominant team and that’s what we’ve done thus far,” Cuthbert said. “It’s still a tie; we’re not even going to talk about [clinching a tie for the league title] today. We’ll look to our next game, and we’ll look to finish the league unbeaten before we talk about league titles.”

Second place Oxford Academy, which defeated Artesia High in four sets this past Tuesday, is 6-2 in league play with Artesia sitting in third place at 4-4. The Lady Dons can do no worse than share the title with Oxford Academy.

“Today was actually a really good match despite the second set where we almost fell short,” said senior outside hitter Mikayla Guerrero. “But I’m glad our team always pushed through no matter what because coach has always told us that we always have to strive to do our very best no matter what the score is. So regardless of if that set turned out to be a loss or a win, we had to keep in mind that we have to work hard no matter what.”

The first set was tied at 5-5 before a kill from sophomore middle blocker Isabella Dantzler started a scoring spree of six straight that also features three aces from freshman libero Gabriella Colombo and two straight kills from Guerrero. Whitney would not get closer than six points the remainder of the set, but it was the second set that featured the most drama in the entire match.

It was tied at 2-2, 4-4 and 6-6 before the Lady Dons went up 8-6. Later, Guerrero served consecutive aces and junior outside hitter Jordynn Hollins had her sixth kill to that point to give Cerritos a 13-9 lead. But the Lady Wildcats (6-17 overall, 3-4 in league) answered with a kill from senior outside hitter Rebecca Joy Simbol and back to back aces from senior libero Ysabelle Andrion. Shortly after that, Whitney put together five straight points for the only time in the match to forge ahead at 17-15. There would be four more ties and two more lead changes after that with Guerrero providing the knockout punch with her seventh kill at that point to make it 23-22, then iced the set with an ace.

“It was straight up too many service errors,” Cuthbert said of the second set. “That’s what it was. We gave them…we just kept letting them off the hook. Every time we had a service run, it finished with an error that just kept letting them back in. And then as soon as the game gets to 20 [points], and it’s close…those are the difficult games to close out, regardless of who you play and what your record is.”

“I think it’s just that we let down our consistency because sometimes we just have to have that mindset of this is just like the other [games],” Guerrero said. “But we always have to keep in mind that no matter the team that we play, we always have to try our hardest and just be the best volleyball players and individuals that we can be no matter what.”

Guerrero continued to say that the team was a little bit sluggish in the set, especially on defense and the Lady Dons had problems reading the Whitney hitters.

By the time the match had reached the third set, it was apparent the Lady Wildcats had run out of steam. With Cerritos up 2-1, a kill from Hollins gave the serve to senior defensive specialist Mia Rodriguez and her six straight points sealed the deal. Then with Cerritos up 11-6, a serve into the net allowed senior defensive specialist Jada Ramos to serve five straight points with three of those going for aces. Rodriguez would end the match by serving five straight points as the Lady Wildcats scored consecutive points once in the third set.

“I would still say Whitney played their hardest regardless,” Guerrero said. “But I would just like to say that our team knows how to finish. Despite what the score says, we know how to finish, and we know how to finish strong. Ultimately, that’s what I really like about this team, is that we’re strong no matter what.”

Whitney finished the match with 23 kills and 11 aces with senior setter Isabela Esteban leading the way with six kills and a pair of aces while Simbol added five kills and three aces. Whitney has finished in second place in the first two seasons of league play but will not get to that point this season. The Lady Wildcats will host Artesia today with third place and the final automatic playoff berth on the line, then wrap up the regular season with a home match against Oxford Academy on Tuesday.

“I was a little surprised with their record in league, but they always get up for this game,” Cuthbert said. “It’s a big deal because we’re city rivals, we’re a mile apart, the kids know each other, they’ve been to [elementary] school with each other and both teams really want to win this game. So, it always seems to bring the best out of them. They play well against us.

“They passed the ball really well today, I thought,” he continued. “They made us work really hard and kept the ball alive. We had to play in multiple phases just to score a point.”

Guerrero and Hollins each had 11 kills for the Lady Dons while Dantzler pitched in with half a dozen kills. Those three combined for 11 of the 13 kills the team collected in the final set. Colombo served six aces while senior setter Leanna Tolentino added five aces as Cerritos flustered Whitney to the tune of 25 aces.

“Absolutely two senior leaders; two senior captains who me and the rest of our program trust them in big moments,” Cuthbert said of Guerrero and Tolentino. “What I was really pleased about with Mikayla, we talked about how we could take advantage of the way they were defending us. And she just applied it exactly how we talked about it in timeouts. With their rotational defense, it left a spot open and that’s where she just went for it.”

“I would say it’s been a tough ride because me and Leanna are the only returners, but ultimately I would say our team chemistry has kept us a long way because off the court, we are really close to each other and we always know how to lift each other up,” Guerrero said. “I feel it’s carried on to the court itself and that’s why we’re able to play well together. We just know how to communicate, and we know how to really just play volleyball in general. The coaching is really good, too.”