By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
The Raiders girls’ volleyball team got off to a good start for the season, sweeping La Habra in their first meeting of the season.
Freeway League opened with the Raiders hosting the Highlanders. The Raiders took the match winning three straight games for the sweep. The Highlanders pushed the Raiders in a very competitive first set, but Sonora controlled the match the rest of the way.
“We set the tone today, for the whole season, and I couldn’t be more proud of how we played, everything worked well,” Nicole Fraga said.
The two teams finished second and third last year, with La Habra (8-2) winning both games against Sonora (6-4). This year however, the Raiders reversed the results.
“I remember last year talking to you at La Habra after a real disappointing three set sweep where they really just beat us in every facet of the game, and that wasn’t really lost by me or the girls,” Sonora head coach Andrew Johnson said referencing a prior conversation we shared.
Meanwhile for the Highlanders, they are a team in transition, having graduated much of their proven firepower last year. The Highlanders have also seen injuries take a toll to their team.
“It’s been a rough preseason,” La Habra head coach Adrianne Spear said, “we haven’t really gotten a true starting lineup out there yet.”
Meanwhile, Sonora has been able to test themselves with a challenging preseason schedule while their roster is coming together.
“We want to keep pace with Troy, that’s really our goal, for that to happen, we have to take care of business,” Johnson said “I’ll trade losses in the early season to prepare us for league, because I really feel like we’re gelling at the right time and really kind of learning how to play under pressure and still compete.”
The two differing preseason results showed as the match progressed. Sonora battled back, while La Habra petered out.
“I think the first game they were kind of nervous, but then they weren’t. Then they realized, oh we can do this,” Spear said, describing her team’s mental approach.
The two teams went back and forth in the first set, with no team able to seize significant momentum. Sonora led 18-15 at one point, and La Habra led 22-20. As the teams traded points, Sonora took control winning 30-28.
“We didn’t finish when we should have, and when you toy around and give the momentum away, it’s going to bite you,” Spear said.
Sonora’s victory in the first game became a springboard for them into game two, meanwhile the Highlanders looked drained from the long series.
“The momentum definitely shifted to our side, and I knew that the rest of the games, either they were going to lay down or they were going to come back stronger, and I’m glad that we kept and maintained our momentum throughout the game, regardless of how they reacted,” Fraga said.
Sonora in contrast to their first game jumped out to a strong start, leading 9-3 early. The Raiders would stretch their lead 23-8 before letting some of their bench get some game action.
La Habra was able to chip away at Sonora’s lead in the second game, but fell 25-14.
Sonora kept the pressure on winning the third game 25-17 maintaining a steady lead to complete the sweep.
The Raiders were paced by their senior leaders Allie Beattie, and Fraga. Beattie anchored the Raiders outside and defense, and Fraga was able to shift between middle and outside.
They’re a six rotation girl, they can serve, they can pass, they can do it all, it’s fun to watch and it’s fun to watch them lead the rest of the girls,” Johnson said.
The versatility that these two players bring for Sonora allow them to stay balanced and ease the pressure off from their supporting cast and bench.
The Highlanders have needed to turn to unproven talent early this season and are still working on finding a consistent lineup and rotation.
“They’re young and inexperienced, and if that’s what young and inexperienced looks like, I’m not too worried,” Spear said.
The Highlanders’ strength to this point is their athleticism in the middle
They have seen encouraging production from two sisters, Freshman Amanda Gamez and her older sister, junior Kimberly Gamez. With the Highlanders looking for opportunities to develop their young talent, Spear is using two freshman on this year’s team.
“They’re talented, for sure they’re talented and we just have to find the right fit,” Spear said.
Sonora travels to Sunny Hills (10/5) and then hosts Troy on Wednesday (10/7) while La Habra hosts Buena park (10/5) travels to Fullerton (10/7).