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Prep volleyball: Being clutch early

Canyon girls battle to defeat Burbank in five games

Posted: September 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Canyon’s Kaitlyn Reiner (8) taps the ball as Burbank’s Stephanie Eskander (1) tries to block on Tuesday at Canyon High School. Cowboys player Andi Sinclair (54) looks on. Canyon won the match 3-2.

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At this point in the season, Canyon girls volleyball coach Brandon Johnson is still evaluating his team and trying to figure out where it stacks up.

On Tuesday, he found out one thing for sure about the veteran squad — they can play under pressure.

In a back-and-forth match, the Cowboys came out on the offensive in the tie-breaking fifth game and pulled off a 3-2 win over Burbank at Canyon High School.

“A lot of times in five-(gamers), you can get a little timid,” Johnson said of the 20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 21-25, 15-10 victory. “We just went after it. That’s what I told them before. ‘Go out and be aggressive.’”

With seven returning seniors, Canyon (2-0) gained control of game 5 early with a 4-1 start and never gave up the lead.

Part way through the final game, Canyon’s girls basketball team, who had just finished practicing in the adjacent gym, showed up in full throat for some added support.

With a narrow 11-9 lead, senior outside hitter Heather Nony served an ace that sent the makeshift cheering section into a frenzy and sent Canyon into a four-point run to finish off the match.

The ace gave Nony a total of 11 on the day to go along with her team-high 12 kills.

“You just have to keep focused,” Nony said of her serving. “It’s up to you to keep that serve in.”

In all, the Cowboys tallied 22 aces, with setter Bri Lonquich also adding four.

Though Burbank (0-1) struggled with serve-receive, head coach Sarah Brown voiced more concern about her team’s overall lack of poise when the match was on the line.

“Five-game matches are always tough for both sides,” Brown said. “It’s good that this happened early in the season.”

In the opening game, the inconsistency showed for both teams.

Duped by missed attacks and serves, Canyon fell behind 11-4 in game 1, the biggest lead either team held the entire match.

Though the Cowboys rallied all the way back and took a brief 17-16 lead, Burbank finished the game on an 8-0 run thanks in part to the strong serving of Jamie Gonzalez.

In the second and third games, Canyon worked into its two-setter system and pulled away late to take a 2-1 lead.

Nony and Lonquich combined for seven aces in game 3 alone.

“We really work on serving a lot every day and that showed today, especially because they were a good passing team,” Johnson said. “That was huge to see that many aces.”

It was another slew of miscues that caused the Cowboys to drop the fourth game, but the team’s first-year head coach said he was pleased with the performance of his senior-heavy team.

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