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Saugus spikes back

After an 11-19 season, Centurions start this year 10-0

Posted: September 24, 2008 9:13 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Saugus outside hitter Jaclyn Clark spikes the ball in the Centurions' 3-0 home victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday. The 5-foot-8-inch freshman, who has been a key component of a 10-0 start, had nine kills and four aces.

 

There are several reasons why the Saugus girls volleyball team, 11-19 last season, is 10-0 this season after a three-set win Wednesday at home over Notre Dame Academy of Sherman Oaks.

One is the return of setter Alyssa Terwall, healthy this year after having to sit out the first half of last season with a stress fracture in her foot.

Another is the addition of three weapons - freshman outside hitter Jaclyn Clark, senior middle blockers Rachel Kempler and Taylor Schubert - to outside hitter Katie Estes.

"Experience," said Saugus head coach Zach Ambrose, when asked for another difference. "Last year my setter was about 50 percent when she got back for league play. Now she's healthy, she runs a very good offense."

One indicator of the Centurions' more balanced attack was Schubert, who had four kills and a team-high 10 blocks.

Clark had nine kills and Estes smacked away 15.

Last season Saugus went 1-9 in the Foothill League, which will unlikely be duplicated even in a tough league this season.

"We had to rely on Katie for all the offense last season," Ambrose said. "Now we have four people we can distribute the ball to. Our freshman (Clark) is doing an unbelievable job."

Clark took over at times, especially at the end of sets.

Her fifth kill of the match gave Saugus at 24-22 lead at the end of the pivotal second set, before she served an ace on set point for a 2-0 lead.

"When I go up to hit, I look at the block and find an opening," Clark said.

Ambrose's girls team spends about 70 percent of its time in practices on defense, and on Wednesday it showed with 15 blocks. Five of those directly led to points and soothing chants of "Rooooofs" from the crowd.

"That's been the theme this year," Ambrose said. "When we got back from a tournament in Hawaii (in early August), we lost a few matches to some teams we knew we should've beat. It's been a big difference just from this summer."

Six aces were served by Saugus, including one by Estes that sealed things on match point. Estes also had two crosscourt kills toward the end that sealed the straight-set win.

Saugus was ranked No. 8 in this week's CIF-SS Division I-A coaches' poll.

The Centurions also beat Walnut, ranked fifth in the Div. II-AA poll, and two other ranked teams.

"This is the first time in four years that this match hasn't gone five sets," Ambrose said. "The girls wanted to beat them in three straight sets."

Saugus withstood 17 kills by Knights outside hitter Taylor Horton.

"Our defense was able to stop their hitters," Schubert said. "We were able to get points off transition. We were so disappointed in last season, so we wanted to have more fun and win this season. We had a lot of starters out with injury last year. We're all healthy this year."

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