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Foothill girls volleyball: Opening with a bang

Centurions beat Valencia for first time in nine years

Posted: September 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Members of the Saugus High School volleyball team celebrate at the end of Saugus’ 3-0 win over Foothill-League rival Valencia on Tuesday at Valencia High School. It was Saugus’ first win over Valencia since Oct. 8, 2002, ending a 17-match losing streak against the Vikings.

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Valencia and Saugus were billed as the best two teams heading into Foothill League girls volleyball play.

At least one of them lived up to that title on the opening night of league play — and it wasn’t the nine-time defending champions.

An experienced Saugus team fired on all cylinders from start to finish in a dominant 3-0 victory over Valencia on Tuesday at Valencia High School.

The Centurions (18-2, 1-0) won the games 25-13, 25-15 and 25-22, ending a 17-match losing streak against the Vikings, who have won at least a share of league every year since 2001.

It was the Centurions’ first victory over the Vikings since a 3-2 win on Oct. 8, 2002.

Armed with seven seniors and three returning All-Santa Clarita Valley players, Saugus jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first game and continued to build on it.

“With this league, you play one bad game and you’re in trouble,” said junior setter Ashley Guthrie. “This game means a lot to us, but we’ve got to keep that in our memory banks.”

Saugus’ scoring came from all different angles, with Jaclyn Clark and Sarah Blomgren working outside and Ashley Pagan in the middle to disrupt Valencia (8-4, 0-1).

The three seniors combined for 34 kills, and most of them were assisted by Guthrie, who gathered 34 assists.

Clark led all hitters with 14 kills, Blomgren had 11 and Pagan had nine to go along with eight blocks.

Though the Vikings had plenty of weapons of their own, Saugus’ constant tough serving and relentless blocking kept the match on the Centurions’ side of the net most of the night.

“We have done a very good job this year of shutting down teams’ offenses,” said Saugus head coach Zach Ambrose.

In the opening game, all eight of Saugus’ points started with serves from Hannah Nua.

Though she finished with just three aces, her serving threw off the Vikings’ offense all match long.

“Our passing was terrible tonight,” said Valencia head coach Ray Sanchez. “They served the ball really well and our passes couldn’t get where they needed to.”

Valencia never made the first game close and didn’t hang around very long in the second game, either.

With the score tied 11-11, Saugus ripped off 11 straight points to make it 22-11.

“I feel like physically we gave them our best shot, but we weren’t prepared mentally,” said Valencia outside hitter Delaney Knudsen, who co-led the team with seven kills and also had nine digs and four assists.

Teammate Serena LeDuff added seven kills of her own.

The Vikings’ best chance to win came in the third game, when they opened up an 11-7 lead, their biggest of the match.

Following a timeout, the Centurions once again had an answer in the form of a 5-0 run to retake the lead.

“The seniors are a big part of that,” Ambrose said of his team’s composure. “They finally did what we’ve been talking about. We’re just going to look at every opponent the same way. It doesn’t matter how good they are.”

This time, the better team was Saugus, but Valencia’s run of consecutive league titles isn’t in danger yet.

“The first match of league isn’t going to decide anything,” Sanchez said. “Our destiny is in our hands. All we need to do is win our games.”

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