Wildcats sweep past Tigers

October 03, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

IMPERIAL — It wasn't its prettiest win but the Brawley Union High School volleyball team improved to 4-0 in the Imperial Valley League by sweeping Imperial here Tuesday.

The Wildcats (14-4 overall) fought through an error-filled match to get set victories of 15-10, 15-5, 15-7. The Tigers (6-3, 3-2 IVL) grabbed the lead only once in the match, in the third game at 2-1, but kept Brawley on its toes with small streaks and by taking advantage of the reigning IVL champion's mistakes.

Imperial coach Rich Ponchione said the scrappy play by his team was just not enough.

"Going into this game I was interested to see how my team would react," he said. "My girls hear so much about Brawley and how great a team they are, but we still came out and played tentative. Against a championship team you have to come out and play aggressive."

The Wildcat were the aggressors early as they flew ahead 9-0 in the opening game. Using a steady diet of service aces and kills, Brawley looked like it would skunk the smaller Tiger squad.


Imperial bounced back as the Wildcats got sloppy. The Tigers benefited from eight Brawley errors and two kills from Jenny Bowlan and Melissa Keaton to bring the game to within 11-9.

"We get into our own heads sometimes," Wildcat coach Phil Finnell said. "We aren't as aggressive as we need to be and our defensive rotation is too slow."

Brawley's hiatus from its usually stellar play didn't last long as it scored four of the next five points to take the game. Kristen Colace set up four kills during the run, part of her game-high 18 assists, with Leighan Sudduth and Morgan Smith garnering two kills each.

"It's still early in league," said Smith, one of three Brawley players with 10 kills, the other two being Sudduth and Trisha Fleming. "There are still a few things we need to work out."

The second game was more lopsided as the Wildcats ran out in front and were never pushed. The Tigers missed three serves and had nine unforced errors that resulted in eight Brawley points. Fleming and Smith handled the rest as both killed four balls, three off Sudduth assists.

"Neither team played perfect but Brawley played well when they needed to," said Ponchione. "They stopped our streaks and every time we got some momentum they stopped us. We had to play error-free volleyball and we didn't."

After the 2-0 hole Imperial dug itself, it still kept Brawley from blowing out the final contest. The squads battled early, with Brawley ahead 7-5, as Imperial fed off the serving of Lindsay Lugo and Victoria Mazon and the Wildcats used kills by Smith and Fleming.

The perseverance of a champion reigned down the stretch as the hitting of Sudduth, Smith and Kaylin Rubin won out. The trio attacked the middle of the Imperial defense and combined for eight kills in the game.

"Our offense was on," said Smith. "We had some strong hitting and some good digs. Our coach has us working on hitting in the middle and it worked."

Added Finnell, "We run a complex offense and the girls are really started to get the hang of it. We highlighted Morgan tonight around the middle and she was dominant."

The Tigers finish their first half of IVL play when they travel to Blythe to face Palo Verde at 6 p.m. Thursday. Brawley remains on the road at the same time and date against Central Union in El Centro.

Holtville 3, Central 0

The Holtville High School volleyball team breezed past Central 15-4, 15-5, 15-7 in El Centro in Imperial Valley League action Tuesday.

Erin Cato led the Vikings (3-2, 3-2 IVL) with 13 points. Regan Rothfleisch had 11 points (two aces) and four kills. Carly Johnson tallied 15 kills and Shelli Strahm had 17 assists.

Holtville plays at 6 tonight at home against Antelope.

The Spartans fall to 1-6, 1-3 in the IVL and return to action at 5 p.m. Thursday at home against Brawley.

Southwest 3, Palo Verde 0

The Southwest High School volleyball team topped Palo Verde 15-13, 15-12, 17-15 in El Centro on Tuesday.

Jessica Conway led the Eagles (2-6, 1-3) with 12 kills. Melissa Lerno had eight aces for Southwest.

The Eagles will be back on the court at 6 p.m. Thursday at Calexico.

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