Verdugo Hills Volleyball League Champs Again
Each sports season has different levels of goals, and this season was no different for the defending City Section Division 2 champion Verdugo Hills Dons girls volleyball team. For a roster full of talent and potential, the expectations were always an East Valley League Title followed by a deep run in the playoffs. The Dons can officially check off their first goal, having clinched the East Valley title with their 3 sets to 2 victory over the Grant Lancers on Monday October 18. “We like to go 5 (sets) every time we’re here,” said Coach Will Reinhart after the match in reference to how often they’ve gone to 5 sets against the Lancers in recent times.
The match itself was a microcosm of Verdugo’s season as a whole, as the Dons struggled with playing a clean match, flashed their potential to be world-beaters, were shown that talent and potential are not enough without effort and communication, and finally put together it together long enough to win. Each set seemed to encompass one or more of those aspects. That process was a roller coaster ride that had the Grant gymnasium, already buzzing from their senior night celebration, rocking and rolling for the entire match.
In the first set, they held an 8-4 lead before miscues set it, and still held an 11-9 lead before the Lancers Kayla Fray took service and led them to 8 straight points for a 11-17 lead. The Lancers held their lead right to match point at 18-24 before the Dons scored a side-out to take service. Senior Nayelly Muro took service and the Dons stormed back to tie at 24-24, before conceding the final 2 points to give Grant a 26-24 victory for the first set. “...we made an unfortunate amount of errors that allowed Grant to take advantage,” Reinhart said, “we rebounded, but when you dig a hole that deep it's hard to come all the way back.”
The second set saw Verdugo etch out a 5-point advantage at 11-6 leading Grant Coach Art Yang to use his first time-out of the match. The Dons stretched their lead to 19-10, triggering another Lancer time-out. Sloppy play continued to be the trademark of the match, as the Dons held on for a 25-17 victory to even it up at 1 set a piece. Grant started the third set with the serve and never looked back. They held leads of 5-9, 8-14, 11-18 and took the win 25-16.
The Lancers carried the momentum and energy from the third set into the fourth, and jumped out to a 4-9 lead. This time, however, the Dons were able to mount a comeback and tie the set at 15-15 behind a stabilizing force after Marissa Mcleland was switched to the primary setter, “...her leadership and relative calm was worth the trade off (of her defensive and passing liabilities)” Commented Reinhart. Verdugo even built a 21-16 lead before holding on for a 25-22 victory to force a decisive 5th set where they were never truly challenged. The Dons jumped out to a 7-1 lead and held on for a 15-7 win.
The Dons finished their regular season with a 3-1 loss to Taft on Tuesday night, to run their final season record to 20-5 with an East Valley League record of 12-0. They now await their fate as the City Section is expected to release their division and playoff seeding brackets on the evening of Thursday October 21. Looking ahead to the playoffs, the Dons face a tall task of staying focused and not letting the moment get the best of you if they are to repeat as Division Champions. Coach Reinhart ended his thoughts by looking at the road ahead “(Struggling with focus and mental preparation) is probably our achilles heel. Hopefully we’ll survive the certain challenges that lay ahead.”