2016-10-07 / Sports
Highlanders take down Pioneers in four sets
Crosstown rivals will wrap up regular season Oct. 20 at Royal’s gym
Royal High’s girls’ volleyball team defeated Simi Valley in four sets (25-14, 22-25, 25-16, 26-24) on the road. Both squads learned important lessons heading into the second round of Coastal Canyon League action.
The Pioneers responded well after a sluggish first game.
“We realized we needed to improve,” Simi Valley sophomore middle blocker Alicia Porter said. “We needed to show them, we’re not the old Simi Valley. We needed to go up and leave it all out on the court. I think that’s what we did in the second set.”
The Pioneer defense, led by senior libero McKenzie Gibson’s 30 digs, kept Simi Valley competitive, as it has in most matches this season, including a five-set marathon loss against Camarillo on Sept. 27.
Simi Valley was winless in league last season, but the Pioneers are improving.
“I have to hand it to Simi,” Royal head coach Kristine Connolly said. “The biggest thing I saw from them was scrappiness. They kept finding ways to get the ball back up off the ground and send it right back over.”
First-year Simi Valley head coach Samantha Crane, a 2003 Simi Valley graduate, has the Pioneers on the cusp of its first league win of the season. Simi Valley fell to 8-15 overall, 0-4 in Coastal Canyon after the loss.
Porter logged a team-high eight kills. Carly Morlan, a senior setter, had 27 assists for Simi Valley. Amanda Fernandez, a junior outside hitter, had seven kills for the Pioneers. Junior opposite Kate Robinson delivered three service aces.
Despite the loss, Simi Valley showed it has what it takes to snag some victories this year.
“We can do it,” Gibson said. “We know we can do it. It pushes us harder than before. We’re going to work even harder to get wins.”
The Highlanders (5-9 overall, 3-1 in league) found a way to make necessary adjustments after an error-riddled second frame.
Alex Omaszta, a Royal freshman setter, said the Highlanders got too complacent after cruising to a first-set win.
Omaszta showed poise running the offense. The rookie consistently found the hot hitter to help the Highlanders surge to victory. Connolly said the freshman’s grown as a player throughout the season.
Omaszta, who had 20 assists against Simi Valley, said she’s having fun sharing the ball on the court.
“If someone’s not doing well, I have a ton of other hitters I can trust,” she said. “They’re always there. If it’s not one, it’s the other.”
Katherine Leap had 10 kills for Royal. Her sister, Lisa Leap, a senior opposite, and Kaitlyn “Gmu” Gnanamuthu, a senior outside hitter, flexed their power with booming spikes throughout the night. Lauren Hoffner, a senior libero, chipped in with 14 digs.
“Alex has that fire and that feistiness to her, and we need that. Her and (Katherine Leap) are those feisty kids,” Connolly said. “They feed off of that. When (Omaszta) gets a couple of swings, it feeds her. She plays mature, but she’s young. She works through those learning experiences.”
Simi Valley took on Oak Park on Thursday. A score was unavailable at press time.
The Pioneers are next in action against Moorpark at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 on the road.
“We need to keep fighting,” Crane said. “We have to get over that hump. We’re neck-and-neck with teams. Everybody’s beaten us, but I’m not taking it away from our team. We’re a good team.”
“We’ve seen everybody (in league), so we’re a little more prepared as far as knowing what they are going to do on their side,” Connolly said. “Every day we’re going to practice and we’re picking out things we need to improve on in preparation for the next match.”