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Battle of unbeatens

Valencia improves their record to 5-0 in league play

Posted: October 21, 2008 9:25 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

West Ranch's Isabella Howell spikes against Heidi Brown (#34) of Valencia in the first set. The Lady Wildcats won, 25-21, above.

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Early control of the Foothill League in girls volleyball went to Valencia on Tuesday, in a five-set win over West Ranch at Valencia High.

After the Wildcats forced a fifth and final set by winning the last three points of the fourth set, Vikings outside hitter Shelby LeDuff took control and never looked back.

Valencia is alone atop the Foothill League standings at 5-0, while West Ranch is 4-1 after the first round of league competition. Saugus (3-2) is third.

"We know it's only the halfway point," Vikings head coach Ray Sanchez said. "I'd expect West Ranch to be undefeated going into our final league game of the season at their place. They're definitely a team we have to raise our level of play against."

LeDuff hit three powerful kills to help Valencia take a 7-2 lead. That was the difference in a 21-25, 25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 15-8 victory.

"Shelby was the best passer we had," Sanchez said. "Her offense was good. We had no service errors. I told the girls if we had no errors, I guarantee we'd win."

LeDuff had a strong all-around match. She finished with 24 kills and 19 digs. Christina Worth passed 35 assists.

"They had momentum going into the fifth game," LeDuff said. "We wanted to steal their momentum back."

Wildcat hitter-setter Sophia Burns made it 12-6 with a sneaky, sudden kill that gave her team some hope.

But at the end, Valencia put away enough serves, including an ace along the sideline on match point, to win.

"I'm proud and disappointed," West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks said. "I saw moments of greatness and moments of plainness."

A moment of greatness drew the loudest cheers from the sizable Wildcat visiting crowd. With Valencia leading 2-1 and closing in on winning the match in four sets, the score was tied at 22. Alison Summers blocked a kill attempt by Nicole DeLange, whose running style of hitting helped her collect 12 kills.

"It's one of the things she does really well," DeLange said. "It's a pretty standard move but she's done it well."

Burns followed with a crosscourt kill before Lauren Shephard served an ace on game point.

Summers was fed by her teammates numerous times in the fifth game, but she could not get her hits around Vikings blockers enough times. Summers' ulnar nerve in her right arm was hurt sometime during the third game.

Megan Futch and Summers both had 11 kills, Burns hit 10. Burns added 22 assists.

"We just didn't play to our potential," Summers said. "It was a tough match."

Valencia went ahead 2-1 on two blocks and two kills at the end of the fourth by Katie Hank. West Ranch went ahead 13-8, but three straight hitting errors by the Wildcats gave Valencia the lead for good.

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