BURBANK — Already hobbled by a partially hyper-extended right knee, Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' volleyball player Amanda Maalouf fell to the court Tuesday during the fourth game of a nonleague match against Providence.
Clutching her injured knee, the senior setter took some time, hoping the pain would dissipate.
"I was just hoping that if I took a little time the pain would go away," said Maalouf, a four-year starter. "Although it hurt, there was no way I was coming out."
That's because the Guards made it one of their goals this season to beat the cross-town rival Pioneers. Plus, there was a six-year winning streak against Providence at stake for Bell-Jeff.
With Maalouf directing the Guards on the floor, Bell-Jeff was able to withstand a solid defensive effort by Providence to earn a 26-24, 23-25, 25-18, 25-21 victory against the visiting Pioneers.
The win is the seventh straight against the Pioneers for the Guards, who haven't lost to their rivals since 2006.
"Being a senior this year and having never lost to them before, I felt that I had to step up and try and play the best that I could," said Maalouf, who had 32 assists, 14 digs and two aces. "We all know about the streak and we wanted to keep it going this year and hopefully set an example for the girls who will be back next year."
It was the first taste of the city rivalry for first-year Bell-Jeff Coach Brandon Johnson. He said although maintaining the winning streak was important to his players, he has to look at the bigger picture.
"We set goals at the beginning of the year and being in the same city I know some our girls are friends with some of the girls on their team," he said. "To beat them was one of the goals that we wanted to accomplish this season. So, one goal accomplished and many more hopefully to come.
"I talked with the girls prior to this season and we are not so much focused on streaks or what has happened before this season, but we have to instead be concentrated on what we have to accomplish this season."
Two prominent Bell-Jeff (4-0) streaks could be on the line Thursday when the Guards open Santa Cruz League play at St. Anthony. Bell-Jeff has a 52-match unbeaten league streak and the Guards haven't lost a league contest since 2006. The program has also captured seven straight league championships.
Against the Pioneers (8-5), the Guards had to adjust their attack to counter a solid defensive effort from Providence. The Guards did receive 11 kills and 35 digs from Briana Hillo, 15 kills and 17 digs from Liz Fundora and 27 digs from Sam Cesarez.
"I told our players that we are always going to be in games because we play good defense and we're consistent," Providence Coach James Jimenez said. "But it's with those final five or six points of a game that is the difference between a good team and a great team. Right now we struggle with those points late in games."
In the first two games, both teams had sizable leads that they almost lost.
In the opening game, Bell-Jeff took control and had a six-point lead late, 22-16. However, the Pioneers whittled down the lead and were able to tie the score at 24 on a Guards hitting error. Luckily for Bell-Jeff, a kill and an ace allowed them to close out the game.
It was just the opposite in the second game. This time, Providence surged ahead and enjoyed a seven-point cushion late, 18-11. But Pioneers errors let the Guards creep back, as they whittled down the lead to 24-23. The Pioneers were able to end the threat and win the game on a tapper over the net by Hillo.
"I've got to give credit to Providence; they played very good defense and they made us make some adjustments," Johnson said. "We usually win our share of points on our serve, but they took that away from us today."
Providence jumped put to a 4-0 lead in the third game, but that was quickly erased. The Guards went out in front, 5-4, and didn't trail the rest of the stanza.
The Pioneers had an 11-10 advantage in the fourth game, but again the Guards took control at 12-11 and were able to close out the contest.
Lorena Ubillus had eight kills and Jenny Nardoni had 21 assists for Providence.