Lancers fall short in CIF-SS semifinal match

Photo by Ted Apodaca Kensley Flynn, right, and Virginia Soto are up on the net trying to defend a hit during the Lancers semifinal match against Tarbut V’ Torah on Monday.

Despite loss, Avalon will get a berth in state tournament

The Avalon girls volleyball team’s run in the CIF-SS playoffs came to a end with a semifinal loss to Tarbut V’ Torah High on Monday in Irvine. After squeezing out two tight sets, the Lions closed out the match with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-19 win to advance to the CIF-SS finals on Saturday.

While the Lancers fell short of their goal of a Southern Section championship, they were awarded an invitation to the CIF State tournament and will open that tournament on Tuesday. The Brackets will be released after the section championships.

The first two sets were both tight throughout, with Avalon having chances late to grab wins. The Lancers led the first set 20-18 after a couple of miscues by the Lions. Avalon hit a shot long, but Hannah Hoefs directed a tap hit to the middle that gave the Lancers a 21-19 lead. An ace serve extended the lead to 22-19, but the Lions went on a 5-0 run to take a 24-22 lead.

Lizette Cervantes had a kill shot the cut the lead to 24-23. That point came after Virginia Soto made a lunging save to redirect a loose ball over the net to keep the rally alive. However, the Lions were able to close out the set with a kill one play later.

Similarly, the second set stayed close with several lead changes. The Lions led 12-9 when the Lancers went on a 3-0 run to tie it 12-12. Daniella Moreno started and ended the run with kills and Cervantes had an ace serve in the middle.

When the Lions took a 13-12 lead, the Lancers went on another 3-0 run to take a 15-13 lead. Soto used a second set shot to drop a lob inside the back line that gave the Lancers a 14-13 lead. Later, Vanessa Rodriguez set up for a bump pass, but instead lobbed a winner over the defense for an 18-16 Lancer lead.

But the Lions again came up with solid plays late in the set. When the Lancers cut the lead to 23-22, the Lions got two big shots, one down the line and the next inside the back line that ended the set 25-22.

The third set was close early, but the Lions were able to extend leads of 16-10 and 18-11 to put the Lancers in a tough hole. Avalon fought back, closing the gap to within four at 20-16 and 21-17, but that would be as close as they would get as the Lions chipped away and eventually closed out the match.

Head coach Carlos Martinez admitted that after having no season in 2020, he was a little nervous about how the team would play as they got back on the court. As it turned out, they were just happy and excited to have fun with their friends and play they game they love, he said. That chemistry proved to be one of the biggest factors in their season.

“I am extremely proud of this team and everything they have accomplished and how they’ve grown this season, not only as volleyball players but also as teammates,” Martinez said. “They have made a commitment to each other and that’s all you can ask for as a coach, to create something special on and off the court.”

In recent years, the Avalon girls volleyball program has established itself at a higher level, with higher expectations of itself. In 2007 the program won its first undefeated league championship. This year’s seniors will leave with two undefeated league championships to their credit. This year’s team, led by those seniors, have upheld that tradition and raised the bar a little higher with their positive example to upcoming players in the future of hard work, resilience, dedication, integrity and what it takes to be a better player, Martinez said.

“I’m so proud of the legacy they are leaving behind and can’t wait for our upcoming future volleyball players to build on it,” Martinez said.

When asked what his message to the team would be when the season comes to a close, Martinez said “I offer you all my heartfelt thank you for believing and buying in to the culture we are creating.”