NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Had the Glendale High girls' volleyball team been able to put away the second game of its Pacific League match against Crescenta Valley on Tuesday afternoon, the Nitros could have ensured, at the very least, an opportunity to win the match in a fifth game on their home floor.
As it happened, however, the Falcons made a stand with their backs against the wall and used a second-game win as the crucial turning point of their 25-13, 28-26, 18-25, 25-19 victory.
"We want to try to win in three, it's more of a pride thing," said Falcons outside hitter Kira Guarino, who finished with 16 kills and nine digs and helped spark Crescenta Valley during its run in the second game. "But [winning the second game] was important just to get our momentum back."
The Nitros (5-6, 1-5 in league) came out in the second game with an energy and edge that wasn't seen in their lackluster first-game loss and, after holding a slim throughout the game, eventually got out to a 22-16 advantage on a 6-1 run that included three kills from Ninette Mirzakhanian (eight kills).
After weathering one run from Crescenta Valley — a 4-0 spurt that included two Guarino kills and got the Falcons back within two — Glendale still found itself in position to close out the game with game point at 24-20 after a Mirzakhanian ace.
Crescenta Valley (5-3, 4-2) then stormed back to tie the game at 24 and took a 25-24 lead, but Glendale went right back up, 26-25, on a Kimberly Coffman kill. Following a Falcons sideout, the match ended on a Guarino kill and an ace by Payton Wheeler.
"The second game was crucial, but we made silly mistakes, we gave it away," Nitros Coach Jennifer Vo said. "We didn't want it.
"I feel like we weren't as consistent as I would like us to be. I think consistency is our biggest problem right now, but we played well in the third game."
Glendale staved off a sweep with another strong start in the third game and didn't let up this time. Strong play at the net, including kills from Kirsten Cabarong and Satine Iskandaryan, allowed the Nitros to pull away down the stretch and Mirzakhanian continued her standout effort with back-to-back kills to close it out.
"This whole [league] just seems like it's better," said Falcons Coach Jen Ku Lee, whose team also had to battle to get past Hoover last week, including a final game that ended in a 38-36 score. "There's no game in the season where it's a breeze. It's definitely more competitive.
"We started off really well and that's how we should be playing. Game two we just lost a little momentum and volleyball is all about momentum."
Crescenta Valley led practically wire to wire in the fourth game, backed by three more kills form Guarino and a couple of aces from Wheeler, who finished with seven to go along with 21 assists.
"The key was our energy and our talking," Guarino said. "Communication is a big thing on our team and it was down, which showed in the game that we lost. The communication in the last game lifted us up again."