Falcons 'earn it' against Hoover

LA CRESCENTA — To make sure they were on the same page, the members of the Crescenta Valley High girls' volleyball team recently held a team meeting.

The Falcons have plenty of goals they would like to achieve, including finishing up the regular season strong and advancing to the playoffs in November.

It turned out the meeting worked wonders for Crescenta Valley, which got 23 assists from setter Bethany Reed to earn a 25-16, 25-16, 21-25, 25-12 Pacific League home win against rival Hoover on Thursday afternoon.

"We had a team meeting Wednesday just to get some things organized," Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Steven Umemoto said. "We also talked a little about not being satisfied with where we are and being able to play at a higher level.

"We want to iron some things out before we play Arcadia [on Tuesday]. I'm glad that we didn't go through the motions [Thursday]."

For the most part, Crescenta Valley (5-3 and 4-2 in league) controlled the tempo against Hoover (2-6, 1-5). Umemoto rested the majority of his starters in the third game, but inserted all of them back in the lineup for the final game.

Hoover sixth-year Coach Charles Min said the Tornadoes have some talented players, but they have struggled during parts of the season clicking at the same time.

"There's a lot of talent, but they are just lacking a little in putting forth that extra effort," said Min, who got a team-best eight kills from senior outside hitter April Melgar. "It's about putting it all together and we've had some good moments doing that."

In the first game, Hoover closed to within 14-10. However, Crescenta Valley used a 6-0 run to take a 20-10 lead and closed out the game on a kill by outside hitter Leah Gagliardi. Gagliardi, a reigning All-Area second-team member, finished the match with a team-high 10 kills.

Two consecutive aces by setter Ashley McFadden gave the Falcons an 8-3 lead in the second game. Gagliardi then came through with three kills in a row to extend the lead to 12-5. The Tornadoes narrowed the deficit to 22-16 on an ace from opposite hitter Nicole Mirzakhanian, but the Falcons thwarted the Tornadoes by picking up the last three points to take a 2-0 advantage.

With the Falcons resting many of their starters in the third game, the Tornadoes looked to regroup. They did.

Hoover rattled off 10 straight points to take a 10-1 lead and raised the lead to 13-3 on a second straight ace from libero Shelly Hu. Crescenta Valley then stormed back with an eight-point run to close to within 21-17. The Falcons then pulled to within 23-21, but a kill by outside hitter Meagan Knight and a hitting error by the Falcons helped the Tornadoes force a fourth game.

A kill by Reed helped give the Falcons a 5-0 lead in the final game. Crescenta Valley outside hitter Kira Guarino then came through with one of her nine kills in the match to make it 16-9. Guarino's final kill closed out the victory.

"Hoover has a lot of hitters and their middle blockers are good," Umemoto said. "They ran some plays that surprised me.

"We had to earn the win and I like the way we fought."

The teams will conclude their two-match season series at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Hoover.

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