Gaels forge tie for first

PASADENA — Anything can happen from now until the Holy Family girls’ volleyball team wraps up the regular season next week.

But the Gaels put themselves in a favorable position Thursday afternoon by knocking off host Alverno High 17-25, 25-19, 15-25, 25-19, 15-12 at Foothill Community Church.

In defeating the Jaguars, ranked No. 5 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division IV-A poll, unranked Holy Family forged a first-place tie in the Horizon League with Alverno with only two matches remaining.

The Gaels (12-8-3 overall, 5-1 in league) close out the season against Sacred Heart of Jesus and San Gabriel Mission — teams they’ve already swept this year.

“This feels really good,” said Ashlee Sandoval, a senior outside hitter and team captain. “Last year we won league and this year we’re on pace to try to do it again. I’m really proud of all our girls.”

Sandoval finished with seven kills and 30 digs, including a score that nudged Holy Family ahead, 5-4, in the fifth game. The Gaels never trailed after that.

Alverno (16-3, 4-1) tied it at 12 on a Holy Family error, but the Gaels sealed it thanks to the efforts of senior setter and captain Alexa Sandoval (39 assists) and Aurora Aguirre.

Alexa Sandoval fed Aguirre twice for kills to secure the Holy Family comeback.

“Just a lot of heart, a lot of determination,” Gaels Coach Robert Bringas said. “These girls really strove to be the best that they could be tonight.

“I knew we were going to have to gut it out in five. [Alverno] is too good. They’re really an excellent team and our girls fought hard and it was our night tonight.”

Senior middle blocker Denise Patino finished with a team-high eight kills and 10 blocks. Senior setter and captain Alexa Sandoval had 39 assists and 10 digs while senior libero Alicia Martinez tallied 32 digs.

Holy Family atoned for its first meeting against Alverno on Oct. 4, when the Gaels were swept in suffering their first league loss.

After losing the first game yielding four straight aces, Holy Family scored six unanswered points to take a 17-10 lead in the second and even it at one apiece.

In the third game, Alverno scored 10 straight to take a 13-3 advantage. There were eight ties in the fourth game, reaching as high as 16, but Holy Family hung on to win despite the Jaguars closing within 19-18.

“Those two losses were ugly,” Bringas said, “but they were on in those three games [won].”

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