By Miguel A. Melendez
MONROVIA — This much is now clear: there’s rich talent on each side of the San Gabriel Valley.
That message was sent loud as the East withstood a frantic rally from the West to record a thrilling 25-22, 27-25, 23-25, 21-25, 16-14 victory in the inaugural San Gabriel Tribune vs. Pasadena Star-News Girls Volleyball Senior All-Star game at Monrovia High.
The East All-Stars, made up of senior standouts from the Tribune circulation area, were thought to be a more balanced team. But the West All-Stars, made up of players from the Star-News circulation area, proved every bit their worth.
No more than three points separated each team in the first two sets, eventually won by the East. There also were 13 ties in each set.
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It wasn’t until the third set when the match saw its biggest lead as the West raced to a 12-3 lead. The East would storm back to take a 22-21 lead, its first since leading 1-0 to open it. Bonita’s Katie Kirby landed the soft touch to give the Tribune the short lead before Gabrielino’s Amanda Watkins served an ace to record the set-point and allow the West for a chance at a comeback.
South Pasadena’s Mercedes Binns, who finished with five kills and five solo blocks, sent a powerful return down the line to win the fourth set, 25-21, and force a fifth and final set.
Los Altos’ Amanda Brown, headed to Eastern Washington, recorded the final kill to seal the match for the East, which again had to rally after trailing 6-2.
“It was very relaxed but then you saw it tie at 11 in the fourth (set) and they started rallying,” said St. Lucy’s coach Sean Douglas, who coached the East. “You saw that they didn’t want to lose this one.”
St. Lucy’s, the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA champion, is not used to losing, and Alissa young would make sure of it. The Sacred Heart University-bound standout who finished with a game-high 21 kills said there was a relaxed mental approach heading into the match.
“We played with other teams who we consider our rivals,” she said, “but it was fun to play with them on the same court. It was all fun and there was no pressure.”
Monrovia coach Wayne Teng, who coached the West, said the match had a lot of quality plays with exciting back-and-forth rallies.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Sean and his staff for coming back,” he said. “That’s why he’s (the Tribune) coach of the year.”
It was a bittersweet night for Monrovia’s Tirah Le’Au, the reigning Star-News player of the year who is headed to Georgia and finished with 18 kills.
“It felt good to play in this new gym because we had been waiting for it since freshman year,” she said. “It was a bummer when we found out the gym wouldn’t be ready until basketball season, but I at least got to play one game here.”
St. Lucy’s Megan Callen had three blocks and Bonita’s Ashley Maxfeldt, headed to Loyola Marymount, had 49 assists. La Caada’s Eirene Kim had 15 digs and three aces.
Gabrielino’s Ashley Van Oosten had 40 assists to go along with four kills and four digs. Arcadia’s Taylor DeGraf had a solid all-around game with 13 kills and 13 digs. San Marino’s Kelsey Buckner had 12 kills and eight digs.
Douglas couldn’t help but praise the overall talent.
“You hear the beach schools this and the beach schools that,” he said. “But the San Gabriel Valley is just as talented as you can see.”