Guards overcome hiccup against St. Mary's

BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' volleyball team had little trouble surging through its first two games Thursday in a Santa Cruz League match against visiting St. Mary's Academy.

But in the third game, the Guards seemed to let up, and the Belles were able to pull out a tight victory in the stanza.

The push-back by St. Mary's seemed to ignite the Guards, who roared back to capture the fourth game and walk off the court with a 25-8, 25-11, 28-30, 25-9 victory at home.

Bell-Jeff Coach Miguel Segura said his team has suffered with closing out opponents when the Guards build an early lead.

"That has been our problem all season," said Segura, whose team improved to 7-6, 3-0 in league. "Sometimes we just seem to let up and we start forgetting the little things. It is something that we have been trying to work on."

Bell-Jeff senior outside hitter Taryn Nelson said her squad's performance against St. Mary's (7-3, 1-3) in the third game might have been a result of looking past its opponent.

"We have St. Anthony on Thursday, and that's a big one for us," Nelson said. "We might have been thinking past this game and looking forward to the one against St. Anthony. It's our fault, and we shouldn't have been thinking that."

Nelson paced the Guards, finishing with 16 kills, eight aces and five digs. Teammate Briana Hillo added 10 kills and four blocks, Natalie Bravo had eight kills and Amanda Maalouf had 23 assists and seven digs.

As a team, Bell-Jeff had 20 aces.

The victory keeps Bell-Jeff in first place in the Santa Cruz League and keeps it on pace for its seventh straight league crown. The win was also the program's 47th straight in league, a streak that dates back to 2006.

Nelson's serving allowed the Guards to jump out to two big leads in the opening two games. In the first game, Nelson had three aces and served eight consecutive points to stake the Guards to an 8-0 lead.

In the second game, the Belles took an early 2-0 lead. However, Nelson proceeded to serve seven winners to give the Guards a 7-2 advantage.

It was a different story in the third game, as the teams took turns holding the lead. The Guards looked like they were about to close out the match leading, 24-23, but a hitting error gave the Belles life. Bell-Jeff than had match-point at 26-25 and again at 27-26, but failed to get the winning tally. After a stuff block by Jade Sugars to put the Belles up, 29-28, Jocelyn Teah delivered a kill to give St. Mary's the game.

"That game should have never gotten to that point," said Segura, whose team committed 17 unforced errors in the fourth game. "But we let it get to that point."

Bell-Jeff took an early lead in the fourth game and was able to coast to the victory.

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