Cavaliers overpower Reedley in TCC volleyball opener

Reedley High outside hitter Olivia Nourian soars as she delivers a kill past the defensive block of Central Valley Christian’s Lola Highstreet (12) and Emma Milhalcin (14) during the two teams’ Tri-County Conference Kings Canyon Division volleyball opener in Visalia on Sept. 20. The Cavaliers (13-6) swept the Pirates (14-7) in three sets.(Jon Earnest)

Defending SoCal D-II champion Central Valley Christian, now in top division, capitalize on height advantage and strong hitting and serving to make quick work of Pirates

VISALIA – Although faced with defeat during their Tri-County Conference Kings Canyon Division opening match against Central Valley Christian on Sept. 20, the Reedley High volleyball team took the challenge as an opportunity to learn from the loss.

The defending Southern California Division II champion Cavaliers (13-6), which featured a pair of players taller than six feet and seven players standing above Reedley’s tallest player, displayed an efficient hitting and blocking attack along with strong serving runs to overpower the Pirates (14-7) by scores of 25-10, 25-14 and 25-11.

Reedley coach Ken Tatami described the quick match as a contrast in levels of competition.

“We’re a (Division three, Division four) program and they’re a D-I program,” he said. “We got to see the difference between them, and the idea would be that it’s how much we could challenge ourselves to be able to compete against that. We found that we could at times.”

The Pirates’ offensive flow was disrupted without the regular setter in the lineup. “Your offense has to be better in transition, and your attack points have to be a lot better,” Tatami said. “We’re learning from it, we’re not down from it.”

Central Valley Christian, somewhat retweaked from last year’s regional title team, immediately took charge after a pair of early kills for Reedley tied the score at 3. After gaining side out, the Cavaliers ran off eight more points on a strong service run from senior libero Grace Van Groningen. During that time, 6-2 junior middle hitter Lola Highstreet established her presence at the net.

The dominance continued the rest of the set, with nearly all Pirates’ points coming on CVC service errors although Jocelyn Rodriguez did collect an ace. Sophomore Emma Milhalcin served out the set with a Highstreet kill scoring the decisive point.

Reedley’s best showing came in the second set, with a mini service run from Ashlee Chavez and a kill by Olivia Nourian off an errant block by CVC made it 14-11. But two kills by senior outside hitter Lilinoe Spencer and blocks from sophomore Ella DeJong and Highstreet enabled the hosts to pull away. After another Highstreet kill, Chavez’s hit sailed long and out on set point.

The Pirates still managed to hang tough early in the third, creeping within 6-5 on Jamilah Taylor’s kill. But with the score 10-7, the Cavaliers ripped off 12 unanswered points behind the service run of Highstreet who collected three aces and peppered the RHS backline into setting errors. Nourian collected one final kill for Reedley before a set attempt hit the floor on match point.

“We’ve still got a lot of season left to play, and this is a good learning point,” Tatami said.

The Pirates are competing Friday, Sept. 22, with matches against Delano (2 p.m.) , host Redwood (4 p.m.) and Immanuel (5 p.m.) at the Visalia Varsity Invitational. Reedley also has a tournament match with Lemoore at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23.

Reedley’s TCC home opener will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26 against Sierra Pacific High. The Pirates will play CVC in a league rematch at home on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, also will participate in the Visalia Invitational and have Friday matches against Tulare Western (11:30 a.m.), El Diamante (1 p.m.) and Yosemite (4 p.m.). CVC also takes on Dinuba in an 8L30 a.m.match on Saturday, Sept. 23.

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