By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Vikings girls volleyball (1-3) struggled in their home non-league matchup with the Notre Dame Knights (1-2) on Wednesday.
Notre Dame won with scores of 25-23, 25-16 and 25-20.
The Vikings were led by middle blockers Brooklyn Cohen and Nelia Trower. Cohen had seven kills to Trower’s six.
The Knights coincidentally were riding a strong attack from their pins. Outside hitter Sam Ryan and opposite hitter Olivia VanDeest gave the Vikings’ passers fits all game.
The two teams played a tight opening set where no one could pull more than two points away from the other.
Valencia pulled away first once they took a 20-17 lead. The Knights would then rally to stay in the set and tie it back up multiple times.
Vikings opposite hitter Callia Hobrecker knocked down an ace to go up 22-20, but Valencia couldn’t finish it off.
Notre Dame refused to take the ball several plays later when the team blocked two consecutive Valencia hits.
The Knights would get an ace of their own from Lauren Yoo before Ryan ended the set with a kill.
Notre Dame didn’t look like a team still looking for its first win in the second and third sets. The Knights blocked, passed and hit the ball exceptionally.
Valencia fell apart on the other side and struggled to serve and pass.
The middle attack kept the Vikings alive with great swings from Cohen and Trower. Their chemistry with setter Brooke Tynon was apparent.
“I know [Tynon] has my back and I have hers,” said Cohen. “That trust we’ve been able to build on the court has really helped us out a lot. I know we both feel the connection. We both know we’re there and we can trust each other.”
The two have put in a ton of work together to get their game this offseason in order to consistently be in sync. Tynon’s attention to detail with opposing blockers also is a huge help for the middle and pin attacking.
The middle attack stood out but wouldn’t be enough to close the Notre Dame gap.
The Knights pulled away early and the team didn’t let up. Notre Dame capitalized on their opponents’ struggles and another kill from Ryan ended the set.
The Vikings were right there in the first set and were blown away in the second.
Valencia struggled early again and quickly got into an 8-2 hole. The Vikings survived off Notre Dame mistakes but a Hailey McKell kill would be the first earned point of the set to bring the score to 10-5 with the Knights still in control.
Notre Dame’s pins blocked as well as they hit, giving McKell a tough time on the day. The captain finished with an uncharacteristic two kills.
The Vikings finally found some momentum thanks to back-to-back aces from Tynon. Then with their backs against the wall facing match point, Valencia kept finding points and got off to a 4-0 run.
It was too little too late and the Knights sealed the game with a 25-20 third-set win.
“Mental toughness,” said Tynon on what she wants to see out of her team. “I want everyone to be capable and confident within themselves so we can work together. The only way we’re going to be able to work together is to be OK with yourself.”
The Vikings are in the middle of a tough week with five games in as many days. Valencia head coach Kristin Dolan hopes to see her team show better consistency and effort as they head into league action Thursday.
“Today was a great day for our middles,” said Dolan. “Consistency is probably going to be our biggest thing and being able to produce from multiple areas at the same time, not just the middles.”
Valencia headed into its third game in three days, hosting Castaic on Thursday.
“Last night my outside hitters played amazing,” said Dolan. “Tonight my middles played amazing. I think once we can get everybody on the same page and producing at the same time, we’re going to be dangerous.”