Glendale volleyball puts up valiant effort in CIF wild card loss to Rio Hondo Prep

ARCADIA — This girls’ volleyball season, Glendale High finished fifth in the Pacific League, denying it one of the league’s four automatic playoff berths, but the CIF Southern Section saw fit to award the Nitros a spot in the Division IIA playoffs as an at-large entry.

So, the Nitros, armed with their first winning record of this century, went into their wild-card match at the Truman B. Stivers Center against Rio Hondo Prep and got to within one point of advancing. But the host Kares scored the last five points of the final game to escape with the victory 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 16-14.

“We made it this far,” Glendale senior Kirsten Cabarong said. “We played very hard. I’m glad we made it this far. We pushed it. We gave it all on the court.”

Glendale (11-10) held the serve and a 14-11 advantage in the fifth game, sitting tantalizingly close to a date with No. 2 seed Yorba Linda in the first round Tuesday on the road. However, after that, Rio Hondo Prep (17-10) got a kill, a Nitros hit came up short, Kare Samantha Martin got her 19th and final kill, and another Nitros hit sailed wide, making it 15-14 in favor of the fourth-place team from the Prep League. The final point came as the Glendale hitters scrambled but were unable to get the ball back over the net to prolong their playoff run and the hosts pulled out the five-game win.

Glendale came out shaky in the opening game, giving up the first five points of the match and never leading. Especially problematic was the service game of the Kares.

“The first set we got killed on serve-receive,” Glendale Coach Jennifer Vo said. “We were able to make our adjustments in the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth game to be a little more consistent.”

After dropping the opening game, the Nitros showed they belonged in the postseason, spotting the hosts early leads in games two and three before taking both games by three and four points, respectively. In the two games, the bulk of the Glendale attack came from the powerful hitting of centers Cabarong (17 kills) and Grace Tappin (18 kills).

“For us running our offense is through the middle and they played really well today,” Vo said.

Game two saw Glendale fall behind by six early, but tie the game at 16 thanks to three straight swinging kills by Cabarong from her center position. The Nitros took the lead for good when Tappin, attacking from the center, hit off the Kares block for the kill, making it 22-21. The junior then claimed the second game for her team with a tip that landed on the line for the 25-22 win.

Game three was tied as late as 14-14 before the Nitros edged ahead on an ace by Cabarong. The senior once again got a kill from the center of the court, with this one careening off a Kares blocker to move to 24-21, which quickly became a win by four for Glendale when Martin came up short on the next point.

“That’s why they were winning in the game. Their middles were killing us. They were going everywhere. Placing our spikes better so they couldn’t do their attack,” Rio Hondo Coach Kristy Horton said of the differences between the first two games the Nitros won and the next two they did not.

In game four, Rio Hondo Prep did adjust its approach by working to limit the Nitros’ ability to set their centers and the approach paid dividends. The Kares stayed in control throughout the fourth game, with the final margin of five representing the biggest lead of the game.

“We put up a good fight,” Vo said. “What [more] can I ask for?”

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