Gaels atop Horizon League

SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — Toward the end of July, Holy Family volleyball Coach Robert Bringas sensed an accomplishment looming on the horizon.

After inheriting a squad full of key returners from James Jimenez, Bringas believed that the Gaels were in line to contend for and win a Horizon League crown for the first time in the program's history. Bringas' hunch turned into reality.

Holy Family received 21 assists from Rebecca Sanchez and 27 digs from Alicia Marquez on Tuesday afternoon to earn a 25-12, 25-22, 25-16 league win against visiting Bishop Conaty-Loretto at Pacific Park Community Center, clinching an outright title in the process.

"After the summer, we knew it would be possible," Bringas said. "We had the core of our team coming back and we knew they'd be able to play well together.

"We changed some things up, like with our defense, and we got through some different hurdles. I knew we could get it done. Beating Alverno that first time at their place proved to be a great motivator as far as pushing us forward."

The Gaels improved to 11-5, 7-0 in league with one league match remaining. They controlled the bulk of the match en route to turning back Bishop Conaty-Loretto (3-7, 2-5).

There are always turning points in a season. Sandoval agreed with Bringas that the biggest came when the Gaels topped defending-league champion Alverno in three games in the league opener Oct. 2 at Foothill Community Church in Pasadena.

"Definitely," Sandoval said. "When we beat them that first time, we figured we might have a good shot at it.

"The mindset coming into the season was achieving two goals. The first was winning league and the second [is] getting to the second round of the CIF playoffs. We've been pushing each other since summer to do that."

Sanchez said the Gaels developed a daily routine of practicing between 5:45-7:30 a.m. most school days to get them prepared to meet those goals.

"Getting up at 5 a.m. every day and going to practice is fun," Sanchez said. "It's really a great accomplishment to win league and it will sink in when the [league championship] banner goes up at school.

"We thought this could be our year because we basically had the same team as last year. We just had to go out there and work that much harder."

Holy Family also got 15 digs from Ashlee Sandoval and six kills apiece from Aurora Aguirre and Denise Patiño.

The Gaels got out to huge leads in each game Tuesday. In the opening game, Holy Family built a 16-4 lead and extended its lead to 21-7 on an ace from Patiño.

A kill by Rachel Turner gave the Gaels a 10-0 advantage in the second game. Bishop Conaty-Loretto closed to within 20-18, but a pair of kills from Sandoval helped the Gaels go up a pair of games.

In the third game, Holy Family jumped out to an 8-0 lead and extended the lead to 17-6.

The Gaels, who will participate in the Crescenta Valley High Tournament on Friday and Saturday before closing out league with a home match against San Gabriel Mission on Tuesday, never looked back from there.

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