Work ahead for Spartans

Brock Turner, the usually happy-go-lucky coach for La Cañada High girls' volleyball, wasn't smiling after Tuesday night's first-round CIF Southern Section Division IIAA playoff match against Corona Centennial.

"It wasn't good. I'm not happy at all," Turner said after the game, even though his team won, 25-15, 25-16, 25-22, at home

Usually, first-round playoff games are easy affairs for the Spartans. But La Cañada definitely didn't play at its usual high level throughout the entire match, at least according to its coach.

The Spartans, the No. 1 seed and Rio Hondo League champion, will move on to a second-round match at 7 p.m. today. La Cañada (28-3) will take on host Bishop Montgomery.

La Cañada's problem against Centennial is one it has experienced before. The Spartans get a big lead against an opponent and then hit cruise control. But Turner wants to see his team keep the momentum on its side of the net.

"I'm not real pleased, I'm pleased we hung in and we're experienced enough to do it, but we've got to get in the gym and start passing more," Turner said.

As usual, Eirene Kim led the Spartans with 18 digs to go along with four aces. Micaela Anderson and Kendall Walbrecht tied for the team lead in kills with 11 each. Katie Pierce had seven kills and Laura Schroeder finished with five. Clair Hilsen did a bit of everything, contributing two kills and adding three big blocks to her team's effort.

The Huskies (12-10) offense ran through their outside hitter Kyla Shute, who had 20 kills. Shute gave the Spartans fits, giving La Cañada plenty of different looks, rising up to power kills down and occasionally just tapping the ball over the net onto an unsuspecting defense.

Catherine Horner, the Spartans defensive specialist and co-captain, said touch-shots are something they'll need to be more aware of.

"We could've played better," Horner said. "I was proud that we came out strong every game we did what we needed to do, we just had a little trouble closing it out."

La Cañada's struggles were evident in the third game. The Spartans got out to an early 16-5 lead and then saw it slowly evaporate, as the Huskies came howling back with a 9-2 run, narrowing the deficit to 18-14. But the Spartans were able to stave off the rally attempt.

"We did a lot of standing around, waiting for someone to step up," Turner said.

Micaela Anderson, La Cañada's outside hitter, was there to answer the call, coming up with key kills late in the game.

"It was good to get the outside back and get [Anderson] back in the flow because she's an integral part of our team," Turner said.

After sitting out most of the season with an injury, Anderson was just happy to be back on the floor with her team, let alone be the one her team turned to.

"I can't describe it," Anderson said. "I've been out all season and I'm getting back into it and I knew that I had to turn it up a notch in CIF."

Although Anderson said her team played great behind her, she knows improvements can be made.

"Everyone has their good and bad days — it just happens," Anderson said. "They played great but we just have to get in the gym tomorrow and keep working."

Horner said she thinks Tuesday's experience will definitely give her squad more drive through the rest of the playoffs.

"We know the competition is going to keep better every game, so we have to step it up and play at the level we know we're capable of," said Horner, who had seven digs and one kill.

Turner knows his team will need to play at its usual high level if it wants to achieve the goal of becoming CIF champion.

"We can play better," Turner said. "After this, every team we play could win CIF. We have to gear up and get better tomorrow, and we can. We've done it all year and we have to do it in the game."

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