Chaffey volleyball team comes up short

WOODLAND HILLS – The Chaffey College volleyball team got a taste of
the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades. Unfortunately
the foe on the other side of the net was the No. 1 ranked team in the
South.

The result was expected as the 16th-seeded Panthers fell to
top-seeded Los Angeles Pierce 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-10) in first
round playoff action Tuesday night in Woodland Hills.

It was the 25th straight win for the Brahmas (30-1) with 21 of those
coming in sweeps. It was also the 61st straight win at home, dating
back to October of the 2002 season.

“I thought we played tough early on but they just wore us out,”
Chaffey coach Larry Chowen said. “We gave it our best shot. No one
expected us to win. It was more the mental mistakes. We make those
more than we make physical ones.”

The task at hand was tough enough. But it was made tougher when
starting sophomore outside hitter Nikita Johnson became ineligible
earlier in the day. That forced Chowen to alter his starting lineup,
moving sophomore Tara Sawyer from middle to outside and inserting
Oqueisha Wilson in Sawyer’s vacated spot.

“That’s a pretty tough adjustment to make on the fly,” Chowen said.
“I am asking girls to come and do something they haven’t done all
season. I think we did alright considering that.”

Chaffey (16-10) was in striking distance in the opener early, only
trailing by one at 8-7. But the Brahmas went on a 10-3 run and went
up 18-10 on a block by Janet Alvarado and Kameron Ward on Colleen
Chauncey. They secured the game soon after when the Panthers netted a
return of serve.

The Panthers were most competitive in the second game. The set was
even at 14 but the Panthers edged ahead on a hitting error by the
Brahmas’ Vanessa Murray. The visitors made it 16-14 moments later on
a kill by Breanna Mayes.

That lead was short-lived however. Pierce came back with a Chaffey
service error cutting its lead to one. Murray followed with winners
on three straight points, the third of which gave the Brahmas an
18-16 advantage. Pierce tallied nine of the next 10 points and took a
2-0 lead on spike by Natasha Wilroy.

“The second game gave us a lot of confidence,” freshman libero
Christine Luna said. “They learn the same things we do. They dress
the same way we do. I don’t think we were intimated. We just made
mistakes. This is a new experience for us. Next time we’ll know what
it takes.”

Chaffey, the Foothill Conference champion, was never in the third
game. The Brahmas surged out to a 16-3 lead and never looked back.
Coach Nabil Mardini substituted the rest of the way with Brittany
Sousa collecting five kills in the last half of the game.

The Brahmas, who have won the last eight Western States Conference
titles, were led by Murray with 12 kills. Alvarado added nine and
Lisa Sonnenblink six.

The Panthers were led by Mayes with six kills and two total blocks.
Sawyer chipped in with four kills and three blocks. Luna anchored the
defense with 11 kills.

“It was good to get this far,” Luna said. “We should come back
stronger next year.”