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OLYMPIC LEAGUE GIRLS VOLLEYBALL Inexperienced Valley Christian swept, intimidated by division’s top team

By Loren Kopff


Moments after Valley Christian’s critical girls volleyball match with Village Christian had ended last Thursday night, first-year head coach Melody Nua asked her team if it was the name across the jersey of their opponent that beat the hosts. To her surprise, the players admitted that just the name ‘Village Christian’ got in the heads of the Valley Christian players.

There was good reason for the players to be intimidated as Village Christian had entered the Valley Christian gymnasium as the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-AA’s top ranked team. And the visiting Crusaders showed why they are who they are as they swept Valley Christian 25-17, 25-14, 25-15. It was the first time Valley Christian had really been tested, although it had played La Serna and Downey last month and fell to the latter in the finals of the Valley Christian/Mayfair Tournament.

“They’re good; a solid, all-around team,” Nua said. “I thought they played really well. They played like a No. 1 seed should. They had very minimal errors. They have two solid outsides.

“We came in with the right thought and we were pumped up,” she continued. “And then after a couple of points, we just couldn’t respond and bounce back. Granted, we’ve never played a team like this. I would have hope we would have been a little bit better. But being a little inexperienced with a team of that caliber kind of took them by surprise a little bit.”

Nua also talked about confidence in a very lengthy post-game meeting and said that a couple of players had their confidence shot in the second set and they began questioning their skills.

Both teams were mired in a good tussle for the first half of the opening set and after junior middle blocker Madison Huizar had a solo block, the set was tied at 6-6. But Village Christian got kills from Kaylee Burdick, Kyra Banko and an ace from Selby Schnobrich to lead 9-6 and never looked back.

The lead would balloon to 15-9 but Valley Christian made it interesting when senior opposite hitter Karly Dantuma’s kill made it a 16-13 affair. Later on, kills from freshman outside hitter Madison Holmes and junior setter Chloe Winter brought Valley Christian to within three again at 20-17.

It was almost the same in the second set as Valley Christian stayed within a pair of points until a lift violation gave the serve back to Village Christian with the score 10-7 and Caylie Denham reeled off seven straight points to put the set away. The experience factor would begin to take form as Village Christian, which returns nine of its 13 players from last season, was being paced by six-foot returning junior Meghan Lacey (six kills, one block, one ace in the second set), 6’1” Alexis Hamilton (one kill, one block) and kills from four other players. Meanwhile, Dantuma posted four kills and a block while five Valley Christian players combined for the other six kills in the set.

“We are very inexperienced,” Nua said. “Karly is our most experienced person on the team. Unfortunately, it takes at least three girls to carry the whole team. You can’t just have one. What I’m hoping for is a lesson learned from tonight. They exposed a lot of our weaknesses and it definitely just shined a light on something we already knew.”

Village Christian scored the first four points of the third set and would not trail the rest of the way. Valley Christian could only put together three consecutive points twice in the set and five times in the match. Dantuma led Valley Christian with a dozen kills and three blocks while Holmes and Winter added six and four kills respectively. Village Christian built leads of 15-9 and 19-13 in the first set, 17-7 and 20-9 in the second and 11-5 and 18-8 in the third.

“You can’t give them that many points and expect to work your way back,” Nua said. “It’s just too much. Again, they’re a No. 1 seed for a reason.”

While Village Christian, a quarterfinalist last season, improved to 19-1, Valley Christian, which had lost six sets all season long, fell for the first time in 16 matches thus far. The 15-0 start was the best since 1998. Valley Christian, which defeated Maranatha 25-23, 24-26, 25-22, 25-22 this past Tuesday evening to go to 16-1, hosted Whittier Christian on Oct. 16 and will travel to Heritage Christian on Thursday to begin the second round of league play.

“When I came into the season, I was just trying to get them the best prepared as I could before league started,” Nua said. “My goal for us was to at least pull off a first or second [place] league finish, and then go past the first round [of the playoffs]. Whatever they did last year, [I want them] to step it up and do one extra. I challenged the seniors a little bit. What legacy do you want to leave here? What kind of memories do you want to leave here for the underclassmen? So the 15-0, the 14-0 thing is not something that I personally do not pay attention to and I sure as heck make sure my girls don’t pay attention to that.”

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