Sports

Lady Heralds struggle in quarterfinal victory

By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

PASADENA – The Whittier Christian girls volleyball team overcame a slow start and muscled its way to a 3-1 victory over Mayfield in a CIF-SS Division 2A quarterfinal match at Mayfield Senior School.

After dropping the first set, the Lady Heralds dominated the second set and closed out the third and fourth sets in a 19-25, 25-13, 25-22, 25-22 win.

“There was just a frazzled nature about what we did in Game 1,” said Shawn Hunter, Whittier Christian head coach. “I think we also underestimated who we were playing and it caught us off guard, that’s a great volleyball team. We settled down after that and got into a rhythm.”

Deanna Blaine led the Lady Heralds with 19 kills, while Jennifer Washle dished out 49 assists. Stephanie Stevenson tallied 15 kills from the middle while Kylee Wolfe totaled nine kills.

Sluggish play early on by Whittier Christian allowed the Cubs to take advantage in the first set.

Mayfield rotated it’s setter and middle blocker frequently through the match, which made it difficult for Whittier Christian to adjust at first.

Midway through the set, the Cubs started to gain momentum with kills coming from Lauren Baxter and Natalie Johnson.

Mayfield pushed it’s lead to 23-15 before the Lady Heralds made a small 4-0 run in which Kylie Cooke recorded three kills.

But the final two returns landed out of bounds for Whittier Christian and Mayfield took a 1-0 lead.

“I told them that we created a series out of it, so we have to go compete,” Hunter said. “We made a few changes, but overall we let them take it from there.”

Then the tides turned.

With Wolfe serving, a 9-0 run fueled the Lady Heralds to a 25-13 set victory. Wolfe and Cooke both had additional serving runs late in the set.

“I think our biggest concern was trying to find out how to maintain what we established in the first set,” said Jon Basilio, Mayfield’s first year head coach. “For us to sustain that kind of competition, that competition in terms of execution, that first set was a lot of stress for any team to have.”

The pivotal point in the match was the third set, as both teams stayed neck-and-neck throughout, trying to win over the momentum.

With the score knotted at 19-19, the Lady Heralds finally found a little breathing room with an ace by Wolfe and a net violation by the Cubs.

Megan Buchanon then added two kills from the middle blocker position before Blaine iced it with her third kill of the set, giving Whittier Christian a 2-1 lead.

Buchanon and Stephanie Stevenson proved to be vital in the middle as they frequently scored points with tip kills to the front corners of Mayfield’s side of the court.

“We’ve been working with them and letting them know that everything in the middle of the court is off limits,” Hunter said. “Their aggressiveness with what they were doing was great tonight, they played smart.”

The third set seemed to take a toll on the Cubs, allowing Whittier Christian to jump out to a 6-0 lead in the fourth set with Wolfe again serving.

Washle’s timing and assists would pace the Lady Heralds, who continued to hold a lead of at least five points for the majority of the set before Mayfield made it interesting toward the end.

The Cubs chipped away at Whittier Christian’s lead as Maggie Dunn and Josie Luck continued to push on the attack.

But for the second straight set, Blaine killed any hopes by Mayfield for a fifth set as the Cubs couldn’t handle the attack, giving the Lady Heralds the victory with a 25-22 set win.

“Both our outsides did an outstanding job tonight,” Hunter said. “We just wanted to keep throwing the ball up to them and let them have fun. We’re excited to see who we play next week, we just want to compete.”

Luck led a balanced Cubs attack with 13 kills while Dunn and Baxter added 10 kills each.

Madeline Watkins led the team with 23 assists and Bela Garcia tallied 18 assists, Johnson led the team with 19 digs.

“I think our girls knew what was at stake,” Basilio said. “I think they played more loosely because they had nothing to lose, we had everything to prove. I think this team was the first that actually developed whole-heartedly as a team, that was what we were based on, we don’t have any superstars, we just wanted to win based on our team’s dynamics.”

Whittier Christian will now turn it’s focus to a road game at Yorba Linda High in the CIF-SS Division 2A semifinals.

The contest will be a rematch of the two schools, which clashed at the Division 2 Championship game of the Dave Mohs Tournament, Sept. 24. Whittier Christian won that match 2-1.

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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.