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605 LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL – Cerritos girls volleyball continues to roll through the 605 League, sweeps John Glenn

September 20, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The streak began on Oct. 24, 2018, the last match of the regular season, and the Cerritos High girls volleyball team had to rally to win the final three sets to knock off former Suburban League rival La Mirada High in five. Since then, the Dons have won the first 44 605 League matches, including a 25-10, 25-9, 25-12 over John Glenn High this past Tuesday.

That is now 45 consecutive league victories and an equally impressive 135-5 record in sets played. On top of that, Cerritos has swept Glenn 15 straight times, 30 out of the last 31 matches and has not lost to the Eagles since Oct. 30, 2002.

But it hasn’t been easy the past few seasons as the Dons have had to overcome injuries to key players. Last season, Cerritos was without the services of then-senior outside hitter Jordyn Hollins (torn ACL) for the entire season and senior middle blocker Isabella Dantzler (right tibia) who missed the first few weeks. Cerritos rebounded to go 17-8. This season, another four players are currently sidelined, but it hasn’t deterred the team from improving to 12-3 overall and 4-0 in league play. 

“I think the way we practice, we practice to train depth,” said Cerritos head coach David Cuthbert. “We try to get everyone involved. I’ve felt pretty good about our bench play [which has] been coming in and doing its job. We’ve talked about having that next person up mentality and we try to take opportunities to keep non-starters involved so they’re ready when we need them.”

On the injured list are senior defensive specialists Ami Garcia and Nicole Garcia, both with knee issues, senior outside hitter McKinzie Nicholson (torn left ACL) and junior middle blocker Sophia Toney with an ankle injury. Cuthbert said he is hopeful on a couple of them returning before the end of the season, but the team is practicing as if none will return. Ami Garcia and Toney would have the best chances of possibly returning by the time the CIF-Southern Section playoffs begin.

Against the Eagles, Cerritos was off and running as senior setter Chloe Cruz served three straight points before Glenn got on the board. Then junior defensive specialist Gaby Colombo reeled off eight in a row, including three aces. That would be stopped when Glenn senior libero Heaven Lee had her first kill, then served three straight points. But moments later, Cerritos senior setter Charysse Dela Pena put together four straight points to make the score 20-6.

In the second set, it was Dela Pena’s serving that propelled the visitors to an early 10-4 lead as she had four straight aces. At the end of the first rotation, senior libero Jasmine Kaster served four straight points, three of which were aces.

Cerritos gained leads of 5-2, 7-3 and 12-4 in the third set and never looked back. And after getting three kills in the first set, senior opposite hitter Leila Tolentino was all over the court in the next two sets. She finished with a match-high 14 kills while senior outside hitter Ava DeLeon-Ortega chipped in with five kills. They were two of 10 players with at least one kill as the Dons finished with 41 kills.

“Leila is all around great for us,” said Cuthbert. “The game was under control at the end and she’s still laying out, left hand to the ground to try to keep the ball alive. She contributes to us on the service line, serve receive, defense, blockings. A lot of the stuff she does doesn’t even show up in the stat book. But when she plays, she’s fantastic.”

Cerritos is coming off a solid performance in the Bellflower-Valley Christian Tournament in which it went 2-1 in pool play action last Friday, lost to Mary Star of the Sea High in the first playoff game last Saturday before sweeping CAMS and Chatsworth High to finish in seventh place in the Gold Division. The Dons will host Whitney High on Friday in a battle for first place. Whitney fell to Oxford Academy this past Tuesday to fall a game behind Cerritos. It will be just the second of six home matches of the season. The team will then return to the Chadwick Tournament on Saturday before hosting Oxford Academy on Tuesday.

“I would have liked to have an extra weekend in between both [tournaments],” said Cuthbert. “It’s important for us to try and schedule some tournaments later in the year. So, that’s why we changed our tournaments this year. We moved to some later ones because we want to make sure that we’re staying sharp going into the end of league season.

“We’re excited to play in front of our fans at our place,” he later said. “It’s always a big game when we play Whitney, regardless of the standings. They’re our cross-town rival, the kids will know each other, [and] it’s always a good game. Everyone is going to be up for it.”

Glenn, which fell to 4-7, 0-4, was led by sophomore outside hitter Valeria Mejia (11 kills, one block). The Eagles will host Pioneer High on Friday before going to Artesia High on Tuesday.