Bulldogs steal win from Falcons' nest

LA CRESCENTA — Even though the final result was a sweep, the Pasadena High girls' volleyball team was tested on several occasions by host Crescenta Valley during Tuesday's Pacific League match. But in every pressure situation, the Bulldogs had the correct answers, defeating the Falcons, 26-24, 25-23, 25-18, to claim their first league win of the season, a milestone Crescenta Valley is still seeking.

"One thing that I do is I refuse to take timeouts to get them out [of a tight situation]," said Pasadena Coach Raz Simonian, whose team (3-1, 1-1 in league) had game-point twice before closing out the neck-and-neck first stanza and then rallied from a 23-18 deficit to win the second. "We won with a sweep with no timeouts and they took six timeouts. I told them dig deep and play our game."

Crescenta Valley Coach Jen Ku Lee said the progress his young team — with just three seniors — has made this year wasn't on display Tuesday, when the Falcons (1-3, 0-2) struggled to neutralize the attack of Pasadena frontline hitters Bayley Neubauer (11 kills, four blocks) and Mariah Holden (eight kills), as well as the serving of setter Melissa Chow (nine aces).

"We are young. Hopefully it's just experience that they need," said Lee, who got seven kills apiece from outside hitters Micaela Guarino and Allison Reik. "We had a good tournament this past Saturday in El Monte and I thought it would carry over to this game.

"[Neubauer] is a beast. [We couldn't] contain her. We game planned for her, but obviously the game plan didn't work."

The pivotal point of the contest came in the second game, when the Falcons looked poised to tie the match after going on a 5-0 run behind a pair of aces and a kill from Emmie Walker to get within two points of the win.

But the Bulldogs would keep the Falcons stuck on 23 while stealing momentum back with a big run of their own sparked by a sideout from Neubauer. Chow took care of the rest, serving out the game with four consecutive aces.

"That wasn't the best product that CV could put out there, I know that for a fact, we've played better," Lee said. "Of all the games that we've played, this is the worst game I've seen my girls [play]."

The Falcons kept the third game close and led, 11-8, before Chow went on another game-changing service run. The junior, who also finished with 25 assists, racked up six unanswered points, half of which came on aces, to give the Bulldogs a 16-11 lead that would never shrink back below three.

"She's very coachable and smart," Simonian said of Chow. "She knew when to serve to where."

Pasadena also got 10 kills from Alexis James and 15 digs from Saige Spence.

"Our practice the day before, we gelled a lot, so we came in and we were moving together," Neubauer said. "I have really good faith in my team this year. We're twice the team that we were last year and I think we're going to come in and get a lot of wins and go to CIF."

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