BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — A somewhat new Bellarmine-Jefferson girl's volleyball team picked up right where the old one left off Thursday afternoon.
The Guards cruised to their third win in the Santa Cruz League, continuing their domination of the league that dates back to 2006 with a sweep of St. Anthony, 25-19, 25-17, 25-19.
The win was Bell-Jeff's fourth in its last five games, and the Guards moved to 6-6-2 on the season and 3-0 in league.
St. Anthony fell to 4-5-0 and 0-1 in league action.
"We take no team for granted right now," Guards Coach Miguel Segura said. "We've got a bulls eye on our backs right now. We haven't lost in this league in about four years so we know every team is going to be coming after us."
The Guards utilized a different weapon in each set to down the Saints, winning behind a strong attack in the first set. Jocelyn Cervantes (10 kills) led that charge, helping to bring the Guards back from a deficit in the middle of the game.
Cervantes, a senior outside hitter and two-time All-CIF selection, took the reins after the Saints managed to take a 13-10 advantage. Bell-Jeff came back to tie it at 13, but St. Anthony used its own hitting game to go back up, 15-13, in a frustrating stretch for Segura to endure.
"Give credit to the other team for doing what they were supposed to do — making sure that we make our own mistakes," Segura said. "But we shouldn't be making that many mistakes. I know we're inexperienced, but we're halfway through the season now. We're better than letting teams like that get a lead on us."
But Cervantes then banged down three kills on the next four possessions to give the Guards an 18-15 lead they would never surrender. Cervantes continued to heat up down the stretch, tallying three more kills in the 25-19 win.
In the second set, the Guards jumped out to a lead early. The Saints hung close, but setter Amanda Maloof (20 assists) was effective setting up all targets, confusing the St. Anthony defense, and towering 6-foot middle blockers Jaylen Watson and Mariah Bankhead were especially efficient in the 25-17 win.
Service played a big role in the decisive third set. The Guards used four aces to go up 7-3. The Saints attempted to climb back in and came as close as one point two times, but a stretch of three hitting errors helped Bell-Jeff increase the lead to 14-10.
"We pride ourselves a little more on the serve," Segura said. "We put a lot of work into that in practice time. When it shows up, we get a chance to use it. We just need to be more confident in our serves."
St. Anthony managed a kill to regain possession, but quickly sided out after a service error. Another hit into the net and a big solo block by Bankhead, one of two for the junior blocker, forced the Saints to take a timeout and gave the Guards a 17-11 lead.
The Guards then quickly shut the door on the Saints, allowing only eight more points in the 25-19 third-set win for the shutout victory.