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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

CIF PLAYOFFS: Girls volleyball eliminates Claremont in straight sets; will travel to Agoura Hills for 2nd round matchup Saturday, Oct. 21

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Nicole Park
Setter junior Dalilah Rivero gives a high five to outside hitter sophomore Kayla Thienprasiddhi after the girls volleyball team defeated Claremont in straight sets during the first round of CIF playoffs home game on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Led by their captain senior Kayla Taylor with 19 kills, the Lady Lancers defeated the Claremont Wolves in straight sets Thursday, Oct. 19, at home in the first round of CIF playoffs.

“I’m so proud of the girls; I mean they’ve been working hard this whole season, and the season is long,” head coach Amanda Donaldson said the day after her team advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section, Division 4, playoffs. “Having longevity, endurance and a strong mentality is huge, and the girls keep proving time and time again that they’re here to fight.” 

The Lady Lancers (26-2-0) will next play Agoura High School (13-8-0) in an away match at 6 p.m.

“We’re all excited for the game and to play,” Donaldson said. “Our goal is to really focus and stay consistent tomorrow so we take the win and play the next match which would be a home game next Wednesday.” 

After squeaking out a first set win, 25-23, the Lady Lancers captain senior Kayla Taylor (left), libero senior Andrea Yepez and outside hitter sophomore Kayla Thienprasiddhi get ready for the second set at a home match against the Claremont Wolves Thursday, Oct. 19. The Lady Lancers swept the Wolves in straight sets during the first round of CIF playoffs.

Taylor said she feels the same excitement and hopes to bring the win home. 

“The bus drive to the match is around an hour and a half, so I hope that as a team we can talk about how to stay energized throughout the game,” she said. “I hope we can make and pass semifinals.” 

Going into the first round match against the Wolves, which came in third in their league, the Lady Lancers had celebrated a season in which they went undefeated in Freeway League play and won the league title for the first time since 1995. 

And despite being able to sweep Claremont (15-12-0) in their first round matchup, 25-23, 25-19 and 25-17, the Lady Lancers had their hands full to contain the Wolves. The first set opened with Claremont hitting a long serve, going out of bounds and securing Sunny Hills’ first point.

“Even though we got the first point, I think we didn’t start off as strong as we wanted to, and we were kind of testing the waters at first and seeing how the opposite team played,” said Taylor, who is committed to Denison University. “Our communication and consistency definitely got better as the game progressed.” 

Claremont then scored their first two points against the Lady Lancers, stealing the lead. 

With the score at 2-1, Taylor started getting more involved on the offense, scoring her first kill of the night and following that up with two more and a service ace.

“Being able to get more points definitely helped boost my confidence, but it was still nerve wracking because of how tight the set was,” the outside hitter said. “Our communication and consistency as a team definitely started to improve as we progressed through the game.” 

Middle blocker senior Noor Francisco raises her arms as she prepares to play defense against Claremont at the home game on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Despite Taylor’s offensive pressure, the Lady Lancers were unable to pull away as both teams found themselves tied at 21-21.

That’s when Donaldson decided to call a time out to prepare her players for the end game of that set.

“It was a tight set, and there was pressure since it’s CIF, and we had a little more serving errors than we usually do and some hesitation with defense,” she said. “All the girls know how to focus, but sometimes they just need to refocus and stay consistent.”

“I talked to the team about what spots are available for different positions which helps the girls refocus and think, ‘Okay, if this happens I know I have these areas I can place the ball at for a higher success rate.’” 

Nevertheless, with some new hitting strategies to combat its hard time with serve receives and getting kills on the outside, the team continued to gain points; outside hitter sophomore Kayla Thienprasiddhi made the final kill of the match and secured the first set with a close score of 25-23.

“After getting through the first set, we were definitely more confident for the next one,” Taylor said.

And that confidence showed when the Lady Lancers started the second set with a 2-0 advantage.

Libero senior Andrea Yepez reaches to receive the ball during the match at the gym on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Later in the set, Taylor contributed again to tie the score at 5-5 when she hit the ball at a weaker area of the block, and the Wolves were unable to save it.

Thienprasiddhi then added a kill in the middle to give her team a one point lead.

“The set was tighter than we thought so it became really tense,” Taylor said. “We were thinking of how the opposite team would respond to our attacks and how we would respond to theirs.”

Despite this, a couple of slip ups led to the team falling behind 10-7, resulting in Donaldson needing to call another time out to settle her players.

Outside hitter junior Dylyn Williams shakes outside hitter senior Jasmin Sonboli’s hand as they switch out during the game against Claremont on Thursday, Oct. 19.

“The other team blocked really well, and I think we weren’t expecting that, so we had to talk about changing some of our coverage and offensive techniques,” the head coach said. “Our mindset was that we had to be able to quickly adapt.” 

She also encouraged her servers to include more effective short serves, a technique the team didn’t use during the first set, Donaldson said.  

With this new strategy, the team jumped back into the game, slowly gaining back its momentum.

Setter junior Dalilah Rivero started off with a service ace and then was able to set the ball for outside hitter junior Dylyn Williams to spike it for a kill, returning the lead to the Lady Lancers at 14-12.

“My main focus was for us to get back into the momentum and rhythm so we could bring back the set into our favor. I was confident, but I was also careful to not get too cocky while playing,” Rivero said.

This comeback along with the final kill from middle blocker senior Noor Francisco ended the set in the Lady Lancers’ favor at 25-19.

Girls volleyball head coach Amanda Donaldson talks to the Lady Lancers after calling a timeout in the first set against Claremont on Thursday, Oct. 19.

With one set left to clinch the victory, Sunny Hills opened strong again in the third set with three straight points, Taylor hitting the first kill over the net. 

“As a team, our focus was to maintain our high energy and stay consistent even until the end because that’s been a weakness in the past,” she said. 

And that high energy allowed the Lady Lancers to never trail too far in the third set as outside hitter senior Jasmin Sonboli notched the win for Sunny Hills with a service ace, making it 25-17. 

“This was maybe the most intense match I’ve seen since coaching here in 2015,” Donaldson said. “You could feel that energy on the court from the girls and the crowd all coming together.”

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Christine Yoo, Sports Editor
Stepping into her first year on The Accolade staff, junior Christine Yoo looks forward to diving deeper into her responsibilities as the co-sports editor. She hopes to sharpen her journalistic skills and broaden her knowledge of the niche aspects of sports writing. When not typing out stories, Yoo can be seen involving herself in different clubs and volunteer organizations. In her free time, she enjoys listening to true crime, finding new music and going out with her friends.
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