Canyon stays unbeaten, sweeps Knight 

Middle hitter Olivia MacDonald (28), left, and outside hitter Theone Nguyen (19) Attempt to block a hit by Knight High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Canyon Cowboys girls’ volleyball is off to a hot start to the 2023 season.  

Canyon swept the visiting Knight Hawks on Tuesday, 25-19, 25-15, 25-15, to notch its fourth straight win of the year.  

The Cowboys (4-0) played with a few different lineups, tuning up as many players as possible ahead of Foothill League play.  

Canyon was led by junior captain Layla Tejeda and sophomore Parys Taylor with eight kills. Taylor and co-captain Theone Nguyen also added three aces for the Cowboys. The team has some depth this season with plenty of players who can plug into the match at any time. 

Parys Taylor (2) happily goes for the kill during the third and final set of Canyon’s game against Knight High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“We have so many players that can play so many different positions,” Tejeda said. “It’s really helpful when another girl or I are out. We can have players that can just fill into spots. So we’ll be OK.” 

Canyon’s back row shined, with dozens of digs and a clean serve receive. The Cowboys only allowed four kills in the first two sets thanks to that passing.  

“We don’t have very much height,” said Cowboys head coach Samantha Holcombe. “So we need to make sure our passing is always on and that’ll hopefully push us into having a successful offense.” 

Miscommunication killed Canyon early as a 5-1 lead quickly slipped away from the Cowboys. However, thanks to some strong serving, the team was able to pull away and an ace from setter Harneet Kaur ended the first game.  

Harneet Kaur (17) sets the ball for Olivia MacDonald (28) to hit over during the second set against Knight High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Knight (0-3) came out with more intensity in the second and forced some long rallies. The Hawks battled but Taylor and freshman Olivia Turner found their rhythm after a quiet first set and coasted to the 25-15 victory.  

Nguyen, the team’s starting libero, got the start at outside and added a few kills on the day. The captain then returned to the back row for the final set to get Canyon’s starters in sync with one another ahead of Wednesday’s league opener with Saugus.  

Tejeda closed out the night in style, knocking down a kill to reach match point and an ace to seal the deal. The captain believes the team’s connection and high volleyball IQ has pushed the team on its four-match win streak. 

Naomi Montoya (13), left, Olivia MacDonald (28), center, and Layla Tejeda (12) anticipate Knight High School’s next move. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“Having a good connection with the girls is really important,” Tejeda said. “Like Coach says, we don’t have much height so we really have to think smart and have good volleyball IQ.” 

Canyon is off to its best start in over a decade. Holcombe will hope to see the streak continue in league play as well as the same aggressiveness that pushed the team to four straight victories. 

“It’s pretty awesome,” Holcombe said. “It’s exciting to have a strong start to the season. We just have to keep our same mentality and effort going into league because we’re playing against tough opponents.” 

The Cowboys only have three seniors on their 2023 team. The young core have the chance to turn the tides at Canyon and re-spark the program. 

Naomi Montoya (13) passes the ball during the second set against Knight High School. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“Our team really gels on and off the court, which goes a long way here,” Holcombe said. “We’re really young, too. So once we can iron out those kinks of being rather young, we’ll be solid. I really have three seniors and the starters are all pretty young. It’d be fun to watch them continue to connect into league.” 

Holcombe will hope to see more of the offense get going as the competition gets tougher. Responsibility will fall on Olivia Turner, an impressive freshman middle hitter, who finished with five kills and a pair of aces on Tuesday. 

Canyon’s (4) Olivia Turner hits the ball over Knight High School’s defenders during the first set of Tuesday’s game. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Canyon hits the road on Wednesday and will open up Foothill League play with fellow undefeated Saugus (8-0) at 5:30 p.m. 

The Cowboys will hope to push the Centurions but have their eyes on challenging a few other league rivals this season. 

“The biggest goal this year is definitely to take on Valencia and West Ranch, that is very important to us,” Tejeda said. “It’ll take a lot less mistakes, good volleyball IQ. Good serve receive and good serving placement of the ball.” 

Parys Taylor (2) hits the ball over during the first set against Knight High School during the first set. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Olivia MacDonald (28) goes for the kill against Knight High School during the second set of Tuesday’s game. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

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