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OLYMPIC LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL – Valley Christian navigates through Maranatha’s tough defense in hard fought four-set victory


September 21, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Since 2016, the Valley Christian High girls volleyball team has had their way against Maranatha High, sweeping the Minutemen eight out the last nine meetings entering this past Tuesday evening’s home match. If you go by the records of both teams in 2022, V.C. was sure of another win, and another sweep.

But this time, it wasn’t easy, and you can credit Maranatha’s defense for that, as it flustered the Defenders all night. In the end, V.C. pulled out a 25-16, 27-29, 25-17, 25-21 victory. V.C. head coach Jeff Ornee admitted he wasn’t surprised of how close the match was, one that saw the teams combine for 27 ties and 11 lead changes. On top of that, Maranatha’s largest lead in the match was three points while V.C. never led by more than nine points at any time.

“I got to see some film of them play and they’re able to hang with a lot of quality teams,” said Ornee. “They are a quality team just because of their scrappiness and defense. I think it’s really hard to put balls down against their defense, which extends rallies. They did a really good job extending plays and making it hard for us to side out.”

With the score tied 13-13 in the first set, the Defenders (11-8 overall, 2-1 in league) got a little breathing room as sophomore outside hitter Cameron Warner had four kills and a block and senior libero Francie Leffler added an ace. Then, Warner closed out the set with three straight aces.

In the second set, V.C. jumped out to a 5-1 lead, aided by three aces from senior outside hitter Ariana Schmidt and held an advantage until an ace from Belen Casillas put Maranatha in front 16-15. The Defenders had a few opportunities to put the set away, leading 22-18 and again at 24-22 following a serve into the net. Then, they had to tie the set three times before Nicole Timour’s consecutive kills tied the match.

“I think they had a couple of good streaks of good servers go back there that went on a couple runs against us late in that set,” said Ornee. “I always stress late in sets, and really all the time, that if you’re the team that plays with fewer errors towards the end of games, you give yourself a better chance of winning. I think towards the end of set two, we had some unfortunate hitting errors and some unfortunate serving errors that kind of pulled us back away from that lead we had built. But credit to them for serving tough.”

Once again, the two teams played tight through the first rotation of the third set with neither team leading by more than two points. But trailing 14-11, a block from senior middle blocker Lauren Thorpe allowed Leffler to serve four straight points. Then at 16-16, a kill from junior middle blocker Abby McGuyre and a pair of aces from junior opposite hitter Samantha Van Duyn gave the hosts that edge they needed. The set ended with senior outside hitter Chloe Westra serving five consecutive points.

“We have some good servers on our team as well,” said Ornee. “Francie did a really good job consistently from back there. I feel like we had some stretches where serving errors kind of added up against us. But Francie is one of our more consistent players from back there, and Chloe too.”

In the final set, a 13-8 V.C. lead was quickly erased and just like that, Maranatha had tied things up at 15-15 after an ace from Tori Coates. While the Minutemen couldn’t regain the lead, which they last had at 7-6, they stayed close until a net violation ended the match.

Schmidt led the Defenders with 12 kills while Van Duyn and Warner each added nine kills and McGuyre another six kills, giving V.C. a potent offense the remainder of the season for this senior-ladened team. Senior setter Carissa Kamstra had 39 assists.

“She got pulled up even halfway through the season last year when we had a girl go down with an ACL [injury],” said Ornee of Warner. “Cameron is experienced, and she’s played a long time. She’s a club player and her age is not indicative of her skill level at all. I think she’s ready for the varsity level. I think when she’s aggressive, she can overpower and take over a match against anybody.”

The Defenders will participate in the Bellflower Tournament today and Saturday, then get back into Olympic League action on Tuesday as they host Whittier Christian High. Two days later, V.C. will welcome Immaculate Heart High in the final non-league match. Through the first 19 matches this season, V.C. has played 66 sets and has been swept only once, that coming in the season opener on Aug. 13 against Canyon High.

“I kind of structured this schedule a little bit around the team I knew I was going to have with as many seniors I did,” said Ornee. “I just wanted to play; I think they wanted to play. We’ve been pretty overloaded towards the beginning of the season. We’ve played a lot of matches and we haven’t been swept by anybody since our first match. We’re taking games off St. Joseph, off Village [Christian], off Millikan. We’re playing some pretty quality teams that are in divisions above us and we’re hanging with them.”