Varsity girls volleyball finds inspiration in close defeat

Varsity volleyball lost to reigning Hacienda League champions South Hills 2-3 in its first away league game Thursday, Sept. 19.

Outside hitter senior and captain Amber Johnson led the offense with 25 kills and setter junior Eliza Santos Cristobal finished with 38 assists. 

“[Johnson] really motivates our team to play harder and never give up. Whenever we get a point or lose a point, we have a few seconds before the next point and we always huddle up. [During that,] she’ll give us a few pointers. She’ll say which spots are open, and she’ll give us motivation,” right side hitter sophomore Sabrina Evangelista said.

Walnut took an early lead in the first set after forcing two mishits from South Hills. Several kills from Johnson and blocks by middle blockers seniors Jordyn Sanchez and Emily Chan extended Walnut’s lead to 21-13. South Hills responded by scoring five consecutive points, but Walnut closed out the set 25-19. 

“It was exciting. [It was] a tough game and they were a tough team to play against. [The team’s mindset going into the first set was] to play our hardest and to play our best,” Johnson said. [When I start feeling pressure], I try to not play tough [or complicated]. [I try to] play as easy and simple as possible.”

Two aces and a block by the Huskies, in addition to two violations by the Mustangs, gave the Huskies a six-point lead in the beginning of the second set. The Mustangs then went on a 7-1 run, tying the game 10-10 with an ace from Johnson. After several rallies, the Huskies won the set 14-25.

“They were really good servers, [but] it wasn’t about winning. It was just about playing our game and competing against them,” opposite hitter freshman Angelina Rodriguez said. “We kept messing up on a few things like passing and hitting, and I think we were getting nervous towards the end but we always play together as a team.”

Walnut won the third set 25-19, with 12 total tips and spikes by Johnson, four additional points by offensive hitter sophomore Aubrey Tanner and a decisive block by Chan and opposite hitter sophomore Tiffany Chow. Despite the Mustangs leading the game 2-1, the Huskies regained momentum in the fourth set. The Mustangs struggled to return the Huskies’ hits, ending the fourth set 18-25.

“We wanted to keep our momentum going despite us tiring out,” Santos Cristobal said. “[Varsity coach Angela McElroy] was telling us that we need to keep our momentum going, play hard [and] not let the other team score easy points.”

With the game tied 2-2, Walnut and South Hills entered the tie-breaking fifth set, playing to 15 points instead of the regular 25 points. Walnut tied the game twice, but three misserves allowed South Hills to win the final set 9-15. 

“One thing that I think we can improve on is communicating [and] also reading where the open spots are in the court because that would really help us get the ball to the floor instead of giving them the ball more easily,” Evangelista said. “ I believe that the rest of the season, we’re going to do a lot better because we’re going to keep playing our game and stay confident throughout the season. [Our goal is to] make it to CIF this year.”

By Sarah Aie, Online editor-in-chief
Photo by Isaac Le

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