Sports

Mental toughness aids Lady Highlanders in challenging week

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The La Habra girls volleyball team after a 3-1 victory at Sunny Hills, Monday night.
The La Habra girls volleyball team after a 3-1 victory at Sunny Hills, Monday night.La Habra Journal

Though it ended in a sweep, the La Habra girls’ volleyball team didn’t make things easy for league-favored Troy in a 3-0 loss, Wednesday night at La Habra High.

Despite battling a strong front line, La Habra’s defensive presence led to an abundance of long volleys as the Lady Warriors found themselves in a battle for nearly every point.

However, in the end, Troy’s big hitters rose to the occasion to put away the Lady Highlanders 25-12, 25-9, 25-19.

“Right now, it’s our passing that breaks down,” said Adrianne Spear, La Habra head coach. “That’s what’s hurting us and preventing us from attacking quicker, we have the ability of a quick attack, but we need our passes to be faster. Once we bring the passes down, everything else will come into play, because I think we can compete with this team.”

In the match, La Habra (5-12, 1-2) held one lead. Down by five late in the third set, the Lady Highlanders went on a 6-0 run to take a brief 19-18 lead.

Sophomore Casey Lunceford lunges forward to make contact off a Troy serve. La Habra's scrappy defense made Troy work hard for points.
Sophomore Casey Lunceford lunges forward to make contact off a Troy serve in La Habra’s 3-0 loss, Wednesday. La Habra’s scrappy defense made Troy work hard for points.

However, Troy woke up and finished the match by scoring its final seven points. Allison Beattie held serve and tallied three aces in the run to complete the sweep.

For the Lady Highlanders, Ashly Hernandez ran the offense and finished with 15 assists. Lexi Kolschefski recorded five kills, but she was as big of a factor in keeping plays alive as she was with her swings.

“She’s sticking her arms out and saving us in the back left all the time,” Spear said. “I need to do a better job of gauging when I need to rest her, otherwise, there’s a risk she could get hurt.”

In the second set, Kolschefski chased down a ball that was set behind her and, while diving, extended her right arm and somehow found a way to get the ball over the net on the third hit of the possession.

However, the junior tweaked her knee on the play and missed the next 12 points, seven of which were won by the Lady Warriors.

Overall the Lady Highlanders defense was on point, as the only time Troy (16-3, 3-0) recorded an easy kill was with good placement while La Habra’s back line was getting back into position.

Senior Corinne Bell rises to launch an attack while Troy's Samantha Huang and Kayla Chapman attempt to block in Troy's 3-0 win, Wednesday night.
Senior Corinne Bell rises to launch an attack while Troy’s Samantha Huang and Kayla Chapman attempt to block in Troy’s 3-0 win, Wednesday night.

Maddie Martin and Corinne Bell also had a big impact on the back line, while Kolschefski, Hernandez and Ryana Murch found ways to get to tipped balls up front.

“Defensively, I was happy with them most of the time,” Spear said. “The only times we got caught was because of our transitions. They’re either not fast enough, or not holding the line, they’re caught in a bit of limbo right now, but we work on it every day, so it will come.”

Troy middle blocker Lauren Jackson made a big impact with 12 kills and three blocks. Kayla Chapman added 10 kills and Julie Kim ran the offense with 35 assists.

Kristina Narbutas and Alex Bollier anchored the Troy defense.

Spear attributed the progression of her team this week to an increase in mental toughness. Spear admitted she stepped out of her comfort zone a bit when the team went through exercises to focus on the mental aspect of the game.

Those practices were key in a 3-1 win over Sunny Hills on the road, Monday night in a game where everything seemed to click for the Lady Highlanders.

Ryana Murch lunges forward for a dig in La Habra's 3-1 win over Sunny Hills, Monday night.
Ryana Murch lunges forward for a dig in La Habra’s 3-1 win over Sunny Hills, Monday night.

Despite a mental lapse in the third set, the Lady Highlanders earned their first league win with a 25-13, 25-8, 16-25, 25-23 final.

Kolschefski and Bell recorded 10 kills each and freshman Marina Pilkington had her biggest match of the season with nine kills from the opposite side.

“The passing was on that night and the defense was crazy that night too,” Spear said. “We’ve been running a five-one with Ashly. These two matches I’ve felt comfortable running that system. We may make a change next week.”

Spear said the biggest aspect of the match, however, was the mental focus she observed in her team from the outset.

Marina Pilkington and Lexi Kolschefski attempt to block an attack by Sunny Hills in a 3-1 victory, Monday night.
Marina Pilkington and Lexi Kolschefski attempt to block an attack by Sunny Hills in a 3-1 victory, Monday night.

“We went into it with mental readiness, I could tell they were ready for it from the get-go,” Spear said. “We’ve been doing mental exercises and have been working on mental toughness and it was definitely there for the Sunny Hills game. That was the key, along with the energy and enthusiasm. You could see it in their eyes, they wanted that win.”

After winning the first two sets rather handily, the Lady Highlanders allowed Sunny Hills (15-8, 2-1) back into it in the third set, falling 16-25.

But the loss served as a bit of a wake-up call and set up an intense fourth set, which saw La Habra outlast the Lady Lancers 25-23 to put both teams at 1-1 in Freeway League play at the time.

“It’s just the mental toughness right now and we’re still working on it,” Spear said. “That whole match was intense, but tonight I didn’t quite see that, they seemed a bit defeated already and I hate that, but they played hard and they put it all out there.”

The Lady Highlanders look to continue the intensity in a city rivalry match against Sonora, next Tuesday night at Sonora High.

La Habra's reserves celebrate the team's intense fourth set victory in a 3-1 win over Sunny Hills, Monday night.
La Habra’s reserves celebrate the team’s intense fourth set victory in a 3-1 win over Sunny Hills, Monday night.
Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.