The Lancers’ volleyball team will have to settle for second place in the South Coast Conference after a heartbreaking four-set loss against bitter rivals El Camino College on Wednesday.
The Warriors were relentless on both sides of the net, defeating the Lancers 25-23, 25-15, 21-25, and 25-14.
“We have a lot to improve on, but honestly we’re good all over,” freshman middle blocker Kendra Logan said. “Our defense and our blocking can always get better and we continue to work on that.”
The state No. 12-ranked Warriors (20-4, 13-1 to finish SCC play) played tremendous defense, coming up with tips, block saves and relentless digs to keep the powerful Lancers under control.
The loss snapped the Lancers (14-9, 12-2) season-high winning streak at nine straight matches, including El Camino’s lone conference defeat, also a four-set match played in Torrance on Oct. 25.
“We wanted to win that game more than anything,” freshman middle blocker Angela Banuelos said. “We wanted to win not only for our sophomores, but there was so much riding on that game. It was the last conference game of the season and we wanted to win conference.”
Although the Lancers went down in defeat, they began the first set with a seemingly high amount of confidence, leading the set by as many as three points (10-7). The Lancers began with a balanced attack, getting production from everyone who stepped on the court. In the first set the Lancers received kills from five different players, including four by sophomore Nora To’omalatai.
“I felt we came into the game with a lot of confidence, but we let our guard down,” Banuelos said. “We were more comfortable and relaxed because we were at home in our own gym. We just weren’t prepared.”
The Lancers biggest foe seemed to be their mental toughness, as they committed 20 errors on the attack side. Although the Warriors’ defensive wall was impressive, recording 15 blocks, the Lancers’ got down on themselves early and never really looked like the dominating No. 14 team that defeated El Camino in October.
“I think the loss to El Camino was mental more than anything else,” said sophomore right side hitter Briana Hilton. “Our technique is fine. We have gotten so much better throughout the season. We just have to maintain a high level of mental toughness and not get down on ourselves after mistakes.”
Nora To’omalatai, the conference leader in kills, was limited to just 11 kills on 45 attempts. The tandem of Thula Parks and To’omalatai were held to a combined 19 kills and were bothered by the Warriors’ defense.
“El Camino played good defense, but we beat ourselves,” Banuelos added. “We’re our own worst critics and we have a tendency of getting to down when we make mistakes so we have to maintain our composure and continue to motivate each other.”
After being down 20-16 in the third set, the Lancers went on a 9-1 run to take the third set, much to the excitement of its cheering fans. During the run, Logan and Hilton combined for four blocks and Hilton’s kill capped the rally to take the third.
Logan recorded seven blocks (three solos) and four kills while Banuelos knocked down nine kills, several on overpass attempts. Sophomore right side hitter Briana Hilton, recorded five of her eight kills in the Lancers’ third set win to help the Lancers’ gain momentum heading into the fourth set, but the Lancers could not recover.
For the Warriors, Sukalana Tafao totaled 14 kills and four blocks, BJ Jiyarom had nine kills and five blocks, and Kimberly Haney made 12 kills and three blocks.
“I wouldn’t call it revenge, but more of redemption to show that we deserve to be where we are,” Logan said. “Right now, more than anything, we can go out and compete with any of the top teams that are ranked. We’re placed in a tough bracket and we want to make it to state. In order to be the best you have to beat the best.”
The No. 12 Lancers will travel to play No. 5 San Diego Mesa College on Tuesday at 6 p.m. SDMC (23-4, 13-1) are 2013 Co-Pacific Coast champions and are winners of their last eight games.