First published in the Sept. 8 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
Mayfield Senior and Westridge are neighbors and members of the Prep League, so the schools know each other well — particularly their girls’ volleyball teams. As the two schools faced off for the second time in five days, this encounter on the home court of the Tigers after the Cubs played host for the front end of the series.
Mayfield served tough and fought off a determined Westridge squad, allowing the Cubs to come out on top 25-17, 25-15, 24-26, 25-18 and remain undefeated in Prep League play last Wednesday evening.
“We’re getting better as the season goes along. We are still trying to figure out our roles and our best lineup, so that kind of put us in some situations where we let them in it, but it was good to see us fight through it,” Mayfield coach Hugo Ayala said.
The match came less than a week after Mayfield (4-1 overall record, 3-0 in league) had swept Westridge (2-4, 1-2).
“It’s hard playing a team twice in less than a week,” Westridge coach Jenna Orlandini said. “We played Mayfield last week, so both teams, not a lot of change. We knew what everyone was trying to do, so it was just kind of an extension of last week’s game.”
Mayfield was effectively ruthless from the service line, especially in the early stages. The Cubs rang up 20 aces, often targeting the Tigers’ libero.
“We’ve got to make our serve a weapon,” Ayala said. “Ever since I’ve been head of the program, it’s not secret who we are going after. We’re going after someone and we’re going to break them down.”
Annelise Rising led the way on offense for Mayfield with a match-high 22 kills and five aces. Kayla Bandow and Audrey Nuckols each contributed nine kills and four aces while Holly Hillman matched Rising with five aces.
“I think we all came together. It was just really fun,” Rising said. “We had some rough points, but I think that was important because we got over it and we learned how to play together more in this [match].”
Westridge was paced on offense by Jade Ilas with 11 kills. Grace Nelson joined her in double digits with 10 kills. Nelson also tallied 12 digs and her defense on the backline was on display in the final two games as Westridge adjusted to the Cubs’ attack from the service line.
Game one was tied at every number up to 10. Mayfield then seized control of the opener, starting with three straight aces from Rising to build an advantage that held until the end. A Rising block on the outside set up game point, and Nuckols finished it off with a kill from the outside.
Mayfield established dominance from the start of game two. The advantage ballooned to double digits for the first time on a Rising kill from the outside that was sandwiched between two Hillman aces. The lead peaked at 15 points.
Westridge showed some resilience at the end as the Tigers fought off five match points after an outside kill by Nuckols had made it 24-10. Nelson and then Isabel De Leon had kills, followed by a De Leon block and then two more kills by Nelson, before Bandow ended the game with a kill from the outside that landed in the deep corner for the game-clincher.
Game three saw the visitors in control early before the Tigers roared back. Westridge went on a 7-0 run mid-game that included four kills by Ilas to surge to a 18-16 lead and draw a Cub timeout. Emery Fishbach had a kill for the Tigers to make it 23-21 for the hosts, but Rising then had three straight kills to bring up match point.
However, a Nelson kill, a Cub misfire and finally another Nelson kill took the game win for Westridge and forced one more game than had been needed to settle the schools’ first matchup.
“We just keep fighting. Our team is never out of it; we are always in it. We are always capable of winning,” Orlandini said.
Bandow started the fourth game with an ace and Mayfield cruised. Westridge escaped four match points at the end before hitting the ball out to secure the victory for Mayfield.