News: Defensive Change Sparks Volleyball's Sixth Straight Sweep
For the first time in nearly three weeks, the state's No. 9-ranked Pasadena City College women's volleyball team ran into a potential stumbling block when visiting Long Beach City College came out looking for a street fight Friday night. The Vikings and Lancers went through 12 ties and six lead changes before PCC fought off opening set point, down 24-23. But PCC overcame the challenge to take the set and went on to post its sixth consecutive sweep, 26-24, 25-18, 25-14, at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium.
The Lancers are 17-3 overall, stretched their South Coast Conference winning streak to 11 matches and their home win streak to 12 contests dating back to last year (9-0 this season). The first-place squad tweaked its defense during the pivotal opening set v. the unranked Vikings, now 10-9 and 6-5 in conference.
PCC head coach Tammy Silva inserted defensive specialist Cassandra Delacruz, a player who had previously been a starting libero, to play along side current libero Jennifer Estrada in the back row. Long Beach built its biggest lead, 17-14, at that point. The move paid off though as Delacruz, Estrada, and outside hitter Viridiana Gallardo put on a defensive clinic with a combined 14 digs that helped turn the tide.
Long Beach had trouble on the offensive attack for the rest of the match. PCC's Nora To'omalatai slammed a kill that tied it at 24-24, then LBCC made back-to-back hitting errors that capped the set win. In the second set, the Lancers fell behind briefly at 13-12, but the duo of setter Kailey Faust and middle blocker Jackie Valle-Acosta went to work.
Valle-Acosta, who pounded eight kills in the first game, knocked down three more during a 13-5 rally that capped the second game win. Faust used her athletic skills at quick dumps off passes and set to several different hitters throughout the match. The sophomore finished with 36 assists (oustanding 12 a set average), four kills, three digs, an ace, and a block.
Valle-Acosta, who has emerged as a powerful hitter from the middle in her two years at PCC, hit .765 in the match, totaling 13 kills in just 17 attempts. To'omalatai added 11 kills, Gallardo seven (and 10 digs) and Yanise Joseph six kills. Middle blocker Megan Callen had five blocks (three solos), but struggled with an uncharacteristic four serving errors, and just four kills.
Overall on defense, the team made 44 digs, 12 by Estrada, five by Delacruz. Estrada also was at her best defending a few LBCC blocks, twice diving to the floor to keep a rally alive.
"Once we put in Cassandra to aid Jennifer, that's when we stopped Long Beach's momentum," Silva said. "We closed down their options on offense. For us, we got super play from Jennifer, Cassandra, Viri, and one of the best matches of the year for Kailey. Jackie really pounded the ball. My only wish is to have both Jackie and Megan play well at the same time. If that happens, we're tough to beat."
For Long Beach, Danielle Tuitasi had 13 kills and 13 digs. But the Vikings as a team finished with 25 attack errors, a whole set of points that spelled their doom. PCC had an off-serving match with just two aces and eight errors. Offensive, the Lancers hit .324 with 12 errors.
"Because we played good defense, you can see it tire Long Beach," Silva said. "A good amount of the Vikings' errors came after some long rallies. We won a majority of those points on the longer plays. Give Long Beach credit because it is a much-improved team this season."
Next Wednesday, November 7, PCC visits the last team to take a set from it in El Camino College, the state's No. 12-ranked team. If Pasadena defeats ECC (10-1 in conference), it all but clinches the SCC crown for the Lancers with three matches left in league play.
[Photo--Jackie Valle-Acosta is one of five PCC Lancers averaging more than two kills per set. She powers an attempt during the team's sweep over Long Beach Friday at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium, image by Richard Quinton, sports information photographer.]
Release Date: 11/03/2012