Sports

Lady Highlanders battle back to beat Raiders

By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The La Habra girls volleyball team dug deep in its Freeway League opener, taking a 3-2 victory over city rival Sonora in come-from-behind fashion.

After the Lady Raiders took two consecutive sets to lead 2-1, La Habra found its motivation, which led to the momentum they needed to come back and win 25-17, 21-25, 21-25, 25-16, 15-6.

“They knew what they had to do and they knew in the fourth match that it was either lose, or step up and play,” said Adrianne Spear, La Habra head coach. “In the fifth set, it was either continue our struggle in fifth sets or step up and we jumped out to a lead and they played with so much emotion in the last two sets.”

La Habra middle blocker Lexi Kolschefski led the Lady Highlanders with 15 kills while Corinne Bell added 12 kills from the left side.

Katarina Marczeski led the Lady Raiders with 24 assists to five different teammates and also had a three tip kills. Andrea Velasco led Sonora with 11 kills.

“It’s a crosstown rivalry, the records don’t matter,” said Andy Johnson, Sonora head coach. “You saw two teams that wanted to win and today La Habra wanted it more than us.”

Fueled by the spirit of the rivalry, both teams traded points early in the first set as the score remained deadlocked at 8-8.

But then the Lady Highlanders took over thanks to the play of Samantha Dominguez and Madeline Martin on the back line.

“Sam came up huge for us in this match with her leadership skills,” Spear said. “Our kids needed that tonight and she really stepped up and proved that she deserved to be team captain.”

Ryana Murch and Bell led the La Habra attack from that point on to the 25-17 set victory.

The Lady Raiders responded in the second set with sharper passing as Marczeski set up Velasco and Nicole Friga for early points.

The improved play had its effect on the Lady Highlanders as they began to commit unforced errors and struggled to hold serve.

“The most important game in a match is Game 2, either you’re up 2-0 or you get back into it,” Johnson said. “We had the momentum up 2-1, but we had the slow start in Game 4 and that hurt us.”

La Habra would keep the set within five points, but couldn’t pull much closer as Sonora evened up the match with a 25-21 set win.

Sonora got the same push midway through the third set as a key 4-0 run gave the Lady Raiders enough breathing room to cruise to another 25-21 set win.

Sarah Hauke was key in the four-point swing with two service aces, while Kylie Rodriguez and Marczeski contributed with tip kills to catch La Habra off-balance.

However, with backs against the wall, La Habra would open up the fourth set on a 5-0 run with the setting of Nicole Mann as three different girls recorded kills to start.

Sonora would come back to tie it at 9-9, but Kolschefski would be instrumental with three kills in another 6-0 run that put the game out of reach for the Lady Raiders.

“We know that our outsides need to keep the ball in play and we struggle with that sometimes,” Spear said. “We need them to keep the ball in play so we can run our middles and get points through them.”

Mann set up both Stevenson and Bell for the set’s final two points as La Habra evened it up with a 25-16 score.

“We beat ourselves, we let La Habra back,” Johnson said. “We gave six points away midway through the set and once we did that, they had all the momentum and we were disappointed. The girls didn’t respond as well as I’d like, but they did show they wanted to fight.”

In the deciding fifth set, it was clear La Habra had the momentum.

On an emotional high from evening up the match, the Lady Highlanders recorded the set’s long run, extending the lead to 11-3 with two kills by Bell and a block by Stevenson.

Stevenson added two more kills and Martin recorded an ace as La Habra earned the victory.

“This is success for us, it might be a small success, but I think it will lead to big things,” Spear said. “I think if we stay together, they didn’t fight on the court and that was a beautiful thing. If we stay together good things will happen.”

La Habra will try to keep up the momentum at Fullerton on Monday, while Sonora faces a tough task at Troy, Monday.

“I told the girls that losing hurts, if it didn’t it wouldn’t matter to you,” Johnson said. “I want them to remember how they’re feeling right now so we make sure we don’t let this happen again.”

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Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.