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Top Seeds Taft, Verdugo Hills are Only Second Best PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 05:19

Toreadors and Dons Come Up Short In City Section Division II and Division III Girls' Volleyball Finals

Taft and Verdugo Hills went into the Los Angeles City Section girls' volleyball finals last Saturday, Nov.17, as the No. 1 seeds in Division II and Division III respectfully. But neither left the Roybal Learning Center gymnasium in downtown Los Angeles with the trophies they expected.

In the Division III final the Dons were swept aside by Eagle Rock, 3-0, while the Toreadors lost the Division II final to Venice, 3-1. And the results for both Valley teams were intertwined with irony.

Both victors claimed their first ever City girls' volleyball titles. And in doing so, Eagle Rock (23-14-2) and Venice (31- 9-3), both second seeds, avenged losses to Verdugo Hills (21-4) and Taft (21-19) from earlier in the season.

The Taft-Venice clash was arguably the more exciting of the two matches – and not just because Taft won a game. The teams seemed evenly matched from the outset, similar in height and depth, although the Toreador roster (21) was a bit deeper in womanpower to the Gondoliers' roster (17).

After the first game it appeared that anyone in shorts and a ponytail would have to be on call. No team held more than a three-point lead (Taft at 18-15), and once Venice tied the match at 21-21, the points went back and fourth like windshield wipers during a thunderstorm. Toreador outside hitter Andrea Bosnic finally brought things to a conclusion when a line-drive kill gave Taft the winning margin, 29-27.

As the second game started, Taft scored the first four points and looked to be rolling.

Gondoliers Coach Allen called a timeout, and got his team settled. I told them to relax and focus; one play at a time," Hunt said.

"Whatever happened before is irrelevant. The next play is the most important. And keep fighting."

Venice promptly scored the next five points, eventually got control of the game, and went on to win it 25-22. And a troubling trend was developing for Taft. The Gondoliers' rotating front line of Kristen Shekelle, Flynn Salas-Miller, Annie Furuyama, and Dana Wieland was consistently rejecting Toreador kill attempts, and forcing Taft to seek other ways to get the ball over the net and tally points.

The third game became the "swing" game; whoever won it would force the other team to have to win two, and expend great energy in doing so. Both teams played with a great sense of urgency. But once Venice got a 21-20 lead, it went on to capture a 25-21 victory, punctuated by kills from Wieland and Salas-Miller.

Taft – which had beaten Venice, 2-1 in the Crescenta Valley Tournament on Oct. 2, and also defeated the Gondoliers 3-1 in the 2009 Division II final – was not totally spent. The Toreadors trailed early in game four, 15-11, but came back to lead 20-19 on a service ace by Nicole Krasnov. It soon became 24-22, giving Taft a chance to serve out the game and square the match 2- 2.

Instead Venice tied the score at 24, and went on to close out the championship, 27-25. "It is our first championship and it's fantastic," Hunt said. "We've worked hard over 20- plus years to get one of these. And it is fantastic.

"It was a fantastic match, a long match. It took everything I had, and everyone of those girls to win."

Taft Coach Arman Mercado, understandably, felt less than fantastic. Although he had gotten 12 kills from Jamie Wynn, and eight each from Bosnic and Amanda Park, Mercado had also seen too many displays of the kind of up-and-down play that had plague Taft much of the season.

"I've always said this; every time I coach against Allen Hunt, you have to make certain adjustments," Mercado said. "But he found the matchups he wanted. And it showed later on, when they outblocked us," Mercado said.

"I've said this all along to my team, our volleyball IQ is not very high. I've been challenging them all year long, and it showed."

Verdugo Hills Coach William Reinhard would be even less enamored by his team's performance against Eagle Rock, a team the Dons had beaten 3-0 on its home floor back on Oct. 29. On this night Verdugo Hills did not, or could not, match the energy of the Eagles.

Eagle Rock showed it meant business from the outset, winning the first game 25-14. Contributing to the lopsided score was the tandem of outside hitters Hannah Yi (10 kills) and Emi Phideyva (11 kills), who were ripping through the Dons' defense with downhill shots that were both scorching and accurate.

Verdugo Hills tried to rouse itself in Game Two. The Dons got some impressive aggressive play from Alex Arechiga; her kill shots weren't pretty, but they were scoring. Kami Lovick and Hannah Evans were also making timely contributions. And the Dons' defense had tightened up; the Eagle Rock kills and tips weren't finding the same spaces they did on the first game.

The Dons clawed their way to a 24-23 lead and served for the match, only to see Eagle Rock tie the score on a net violation. Verdugo would not get another opportunity to serve out the match and eventually fell, 28- 26.

The loss lowered the Dons' resolve even more, and a feeling of inevitability hung over the gym. Verdugo shot its last bullet in Game Three, tying the score at 11-all, but would score only five more points in the contest. It was somehow fitting that Yi ended it with another vicious kill shot.

"It was disappointing to not play your best in the most important match," a visibly irked Reinhart said. "This was a team we swept 3-0, three weeks ago. And we weren't able to replicate it. So, if you had to choose a time to win, tonight was the night. So hat's off to the Eagles.

"We just broke down mentally. Our team wasn't there, from the very outset. If you look at the tape, you'll see we scored as many points as Eagle Rock did for Eagle Rock. And it's pretty easy to win when you're scoring points, and your opponent is scoring points for you. That's what we did for Eagle Rock tonight."

Eagles Coach Tim Bergeron, on the other hand, could barely contain his joy.

"First of all, Will Reinhart's a great coach, and we both understood the game on the 29th was great preparation for the match today," Bergeron said. "But this is also a game of chess, and there are certain things they didn't want to show, and we didn't want to show. And they had the home court advantage in that match.

"We've been talking all year about peaking in November. And that game was in October. So we showed a couple different things today; we ran some more inside balls, I thought. I thought our serving game was a little more effective, and I thought we passed the ball pretty well. And (Yi) and (Phideyva) were dominant, absolutely."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 05:21

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