BURBANK — In the opening game of its season Wednesday against Judson International, the Lycee International of Los Angeles girls' volleyball team looked rusty.
In addition to playing its first match of the season, LILA had just three full practices before taking the floor against the Eagles in an International League match.
Despite trailing by eight in the opening frame, the Lions battled back to tie the score late, only to lose down the stretch.
It was that momentum that enabled LILA to reverse its fortunes in the match, though. The Lions stormed back to win the next three games for a 25-27, 25-12, 25-14, 25-23 victory at Olive Recreation Center.
"Having only three practices and this being our first game, I was very happy with the way that we played," Lions coach Leonardo Granato said. "I knew it was going to be close, but we were able to pull it out.
"I thought our serving was a big key for us and we had a couple of freshmen who did a good job as well. …Judson is a very good team, I'm glad we were just a little better today."
LILA, which placed second in the tiered International League last season and qualified for the playoffs, received fine efforts from seniors Chloe Whyte and Dylan Priestley. Priestley had 17 kills and Whyte contributed 14 kills to go along with six aces.
In the opening game, Judson (2-1, 1-1 in league) took control and led for most of the frame. Following a four-contact call on the Lions, the Eagles enjoyed an eight-point advantage, 22-14. But LILA pushed back and tied the score at 25 on a kill from Grace Edlar Von Graeve. Judson put the game away on a LILA attacking error into the net and a kill to end it by Hallie Gould (team-high nine kills).
"We just really wanted to win our first game. This being a new season and this being our first game we were all quite nervous," Priesley said. "We just knew we had to keep the ball in as much as we could and try and play clean.
"I think it's always that first set when you come in shaky sometimes. But after that first one, we got our focus and we played much better."
The second game was close early, with the Lions leading, 10-9. But behind the serving of Cynthia Randrianaja (six aces), LILA embarked on a 13-0 run to take a 23-9 lead. The Lions secured the game on an Eagles double call to even the match, 1-1.
LILA jumped out to a quick advantage in the third game, 10-2, and never let Judson back in.
Judson played better in the fourth game, holding a 15-9 advantage. The Lions were able to tie the score at 23 and go in front, 24-23, on consecutive aces from Anastasia Serrell-Watts. A kill by Whyte finished the game and match for LILA.
"Once we got the jitters out of the way, I though we got back to playing our kind of volleyball and we took care of business," Granato said. "It's good to get that out of the way in our first game of the season and not in the first game of the playoffs."