Canyons women’s volleyball sets tone early in three-game sweep

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The No. 24 ranked College of the Canyons women’s volleyball team hosted Santa Monica College at The Master’s University in a Western State Conference, South Division match on Wednesday.

Playing united, team volleyball, Canyons was clearly the better-prepared and more talented team, winning in three sets: 25-5, 25-12, 25-15 in a lopsided victory that was never in doubt.

“We want to continue to play as clean on our side of the court as possible,” said Canyons head coach Clay Timmons. “We never know until we start playing them what they are going to show us and how we need to adapt to them.”

Coming out on fire after a Corsairs hitting error to begin the first set, Canyons (9-6 overall, 4-1 in WSC, South) sophomore setter Sydney Higginson got the Cougars going firing two back-to-back aces.

But the aces didn’t stop there.

Over the following 15 serves, Higginson delivered nearly untouchable serves, recording eight aces until the Cougars’ first error of the game resulted in Santa Monica’s first point, down 16-1.

“Every single practice we have had for the past two weeks is serving, serving, serving. That’s what we have been focusing on,” Higginson said. “That’s honestly what I was thinking about coming into this game. I wanted to try to push to see how many I could get.”

Grace Ferguson was in the starting rotation, but played sparingly throughout the match, and was nothing less than spectacular. She contributed every time she was on the floor with her monstrous kills and outstretched arms, none more impressive than a kill and block sequence to make it 20-3 Canyons.

Fittingly, Ferguson recorded the set-winning kill in the middle of the court as she hammered home the point.

Timmons moved some pieces around ahead of the second set as Maddie Martinez and Higginson were the only starters out on the floor to begin, allowing other players to get more playing experience.

Once again, Higginson delivered, finding her spots with back-to-back aces to put the Cougars up 4-2. 

Higginson led the team with a game-high 11 aces on the night.

Kiana Perry, who is known for her defense, got in on the action with three aces of her own in a row and after a Santa Monica hitting error, the visitors called a timeout down 15-5.

Perry had seven digs and three aces on the night.

“Kiana is a really great defender and reads really well,” Timmons said. “She is probably the top player on our squad that is willing to sacrifice her body to make the play. Her knees will tell you that, she’s icing both knees all the time and it’s just the way she plays. We have a lot of confidence in her serve receive and anything around her area is probably not going to hit the floor.” 

A Caitlin Lim ace a couple of points later brought the score to 19-7 in Canyons’ favor and Martinez finished off the second set win with a tricky kill.

“We have had some good practices and everybody seems to be improving in a few ways here and there,” Timmons said. “On the stat sheet, you have your starters, but then other girls are making it tough on us to decide who’s next off the bench, so it’s nice to be able to kind of dial in your sets based off personnel.” 

The third set began with yet another Canyons ace, this time by Cecilia Giovannini. Coupled with miscommunication errors by Santa Monica (1-14, 1-4) the Cougars looked to be in line for another win.

Canyons outside hitter Bree Kelley, who was coming off an ankle injury and played sparingly in the previous match, showed flashes of what it’s like to be almost near 100%. The minute she set foot on the court, Kelley ignited the Cougars with hard play and tough kills.

“I was out for two weeks and I’ve broken my ankle before and it’s been in a cast for two months and it was devastating because volleyball means everything to me,” Kelley said of her return. “To come back and to have my team and my coaches believe in me is everything.”

“Bree has worked really hard to come back from that injury and it helped that she was already pretty strong when she got injured,” Timmons said. “She came back even quicker than our trainers could have ever expected and has been working hard in practice to show that she is still a pretty good player and deserves to be out there and work back towards possibly a starting position. It’s great to have her height, length and power back in the lineup.” 

Kelley finished the night with eight kills.

Kyra Titner contributed in the middle with her finesse and blocking ability. In mid-air, Titner was able to contort her body and change the hand she was hitting for the kill to give Canyons a 15-8 advantage.

Down the stretch, Hailee Kessler showed her arm strength with multiple kills to doom the visitors in a sweep.

Canyons squares off against Bakersfield, the No. 1 team in the South Division at 7 p.m. at The Master’s University on Friday.

“Obviously Bakersfield has a ton of power, they serve tough and know how to play the game real well,” Timmons said. “For us, the best way to prepare for them, with this match tonight, was to work on ourselves. Work on our communication when the other team has the ball, work on our vision and then again serving tough, playing clean from a hitting and serving standpoint. It looks like we did that tonight, but if we can approach it from our side of the court the same way on Friday and maybe get them in a little bit of trouble here and there, then I think it’s a good thing for us.”

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