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Saugus girls volleyball: A critical blow

Centurions beat Valencia again to seize control of league lead

Posted: October 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Members of the Saugus girls volleyball team celebrate their victory over Valencia on Tuesday at Saugus High School.

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It’s confirmed.

Saugus girls volleyball has something distinctly different going on this year.

The Centurions are playing with the kind of resilience and confidence that has them doing something not many Foothill League teams have done in the past decade — beating Valencia.

The Centurions completed a season sweep by upending the nine-time defending league champion Vikings 3-1 on Tuesday at Saugus High School.

And the 25-19, 25-17, 15-25, 25-18 victory leaves Valencia in unfamiliar territory, trailing by two matches in the league standings with four to play.

“We felt that the roles were reversed,” said Saugus outside hitter Jaclyn Clark. “Where usually we were the ones playing mental games, I think (Valencia) was today.”

Saugus (23-2, 6-0) had to overcome one major blow in the match when senior middle blocker Ashley Pagan went down with an ankle injury in the third game.

At the time, Valencia (12-5, 4-2) led the game 16-14.

After Pagan was helped off the court, the Vikings rattled off eight points in a row for their best run of the match, which closed the gap to 2-1.

The Centurions had a response, and her name was Hannah Nua, who came alive in the absence of Pagan and keyed Saugus’ offense in the clinching game four.

“When Ashley went down, we had a discussion, (saying) that it was mutual that we all had to step up,” Nua said. “Especially me.”

Nua finished with 12 kills, nine in the fourth game alone.

She was counted on partially because Valencia’s blocking was focused on Clark and fellow outside hitter Sarah Blomgren.

Blomgren still ended up as the match’s leading scorer with 14 kills to go with six aces, and Clark finished with 12 kills and 14 digs.

“We wouldn’t let anything beat us,” said Saugus head coach Zach Ambrose. “We really stepped up in that (fourth) game defensively. I think that was really lacking before.”

After a strong finish to game three, the Vikings carried the momentum to the final game and took a 6-3 lead.

Anchored by relentless defense and Nua’s precision hitting, Saugus went on an 8-0 run of its own to take an 11-6 lead, and more importantly, it took the wind out of Valencia’s sail.

“The two things that hold us back are passing and defense,” said Valencia head coach Ray Sanchez. “The good teams dig out balls. It’s just as simple as that.”

Defense is what plagued Valencia in the first two games.

Saugus controlled both games from start to finish, using strong serving to get things going and disciplined play to build on the leads.

Valencia never led by more than one point in games one and two.

Junior hitter Serena LeDuff was the top target for the Vikings, totaling 13 kills and adding 13 digs.

Valencia libero Kyle Jacobson added 33 digs.

With the Vikings’ streak of league titles now in serious jeopardy, the team’s intentions remain unchanged.

“We’ve got to take care of our business,” Sanchez said. “Ultimately, our goal is to make the playoffs and make a deep run.”

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