By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
SAN GABRIEL – Rosemead High School’s girls volleyball team rushed the Gabrielino court after the fifth game and jumped up and down in one big group hug. They cried in joy.
Gabrielino, meanwhile, cried in disappointment.
The Panthers may have scored their biggest volleyball victory Wednesday afternoon, ending the Eagles’ 77-match Mission Valley League undefeated streak.
“We just put our hearts out there,” Panthers junior outside hitter Priscilla Franco said. “I knew we could do it. It was all in ourselves.”
Trailing 12-5 in the fifth game, the Panthers rallied for an 18-16 victory.
“Definitely, definitely not the best I’ve seen my team play, but the willpower and the heart shined through on this game,” Rosemead coach Emily Hausler said. “That was something I had not seen in a long time come out of this team.”
Gabrielino had not lost a league match since 2004, when the Eagles fell to Arroyo in four games.
“We leave it out on the court,” Gabrielino coach Silvia Apodaca said. “They played hard, they just made mistakes they shouldn’t have made. They knew (Rosemead) was going to bring it.”
Rosemead, which is solidly in third place in league at 5-4, scored a 21-25, 25-16, 8-25, 25-23, 18-16 win. It was Gabrielino’s fourth five-game match in league play this season, second in a row. The Eagles defeated the Panthers in five games in the first round of league play.
“Gab is our worst rival,” Hausler said. “They’re the best team in our league. In the past I’ve seen girls come through this program and they’re terrified of them. It’s been very intimidating for our girls.
“So this is a big turnaround.”
The Eagles can still win the league title if they defeat visiting El Monte on Friday afternoon. The teams are tied for the lead at 8-1. The Lions defeated Arroyo in four games on Wednesday.
“It was disappointing, but they put up a big fight,” Gabrielino setter Joann Chac said. “We just have to move on. We’re going to use this loss to get ready for the Friday game.”
Lizzy Lemus came off the bench to serve back-to-back aces and Priscilla Franco had two kills to help close Rosemead’s 12-5 deficit to a 13-11 gap. Rosemead touched the net to give Gabrielino three match points, but Gabrielino touched the net and had a hitting error and then another Franco spike tied it at 14.
It was tied again at 15 and 16 with Gabrielino having match point each time.
Rosemead then got its first match point when Gabrielino’s Jessica La hit a kill attempt long. Rosemead libero Sydney Hua made three huge digs during the extended rally.
“I was really nervous, but we had pushed through in the game before,” Hua said of the 25-23 fourth game, in which the Eagles had led, 23-20.
A kill attempt by Gabrielino went into the net to end the match.