College of the Canyons women’s volleyball rode strong blocking and serving in Wednesday’s home conference win over the Antelope Valley College Marauders.
The Cougars won the match, 25-19, 25-13, 25-7, snapping a two-match losing streak.
Setter Sofia Aranzazu and Kira Hooper led Canyons (10-11, 6-4) with five aces.
The Cougars had a commanding 2-0 lead heading into the third set.
AVC libero Cameron Nelson went down during a rally and was unable to get back up. Nelson was stable but appeared to have trouble breathing, leading to paramedics being called. The libero was stretchered off and, to the surprise of many, the match continued.
The two teams had a quick warmup and jumped back into the match with a long rally in the first point back.
COC’s serving and scrappy passing kept the team ahead. Setter Sutton Thompson registered back-to-back aces to set up match point, where a hitting error would end the night for the Marauders.
“We played pretty well,” COC co-head coach Lisa Hooper said. “I thought we came out a little bit slow but we picked it up. We were happy to use some players in some different positions and maybe in some ways that we haven’t had many opportunities to use them. I particularly thought that we improved from the service line as the match progressed. We were more tactical with our serves, and we were much more terminal with our service and that translated into 17 aces on the night.”
Middle blockers Kamia Benjamin and Leah Gillie both played well in the set and sparked the Cougars back into the game after a slow start.
Benjamin and outside hitter Kaitlyn Vazin led the offense with five kills on the night. Gillie played just two sets in the win, and added a kill, two digs and a pair of blocks.
Benjamin had a .500 kill percentage and also added two blocks.
Aranzazu tallied three of her aces consecutively in the second set, which helped Canyons take off on a 7-0 run.
Aranzazu has been a recent addition to the lineup after missing some time this season dealing with an injury.
Coach Hooper said she has three setters who all run the offense smoothly.
“We’re fortunate to have three very talented setters,” coach Hooper said. “Sophia Aranzazu had been dealing with some lower extremity problems. We really wanted to give her an opportunity to get in and get some good reps, but honestly on any given night all three of our setters can run our offense.”
Thompson finished with nine assists while Aranzazu added eight.
“Sophie is a great Energizer Bunny,” coach Hooper said. “She kind of just kind of sparks when they put her ball down. She gets more excited for them then she does for herself.”
Every Cougar was able to see court time on Wednesday, something coach Hooper and co-head coach Clay Timmons aim to do with their young and talented team.
“I think that’s the tale of this season, we came in with so much parity, a lot of talent but not any time at this level on the court,” coach Hooper said. “Our freshmen have really grown, they’ve really evolved. They’ve adapted not just to the pace of the game, but to the challenges of being a college student. We’ve seen impressive development in their mindset and their mentality toward being an intercollegiate athlete.”
The win gets Canyons back in the win column. The team has won five of its last seven matches and will look to keep picking up momentum in the final stretch of the season before the Western State Conference Crossover.
Canyons will return to WSC action on Friday when the team heads to Citrus before concluding the regular season with West Los Angeles next week.
For Hooper, her team could make a run if it gets a chance, but it’s still all about just getting better day by day.
“We don’t need to move mountains every day but we need to see improvement every single day,” Hooper said. “So it could be in your physical, it could be in mental, it should be a little of both every day. We’re hoping that we get a good opportunity to challenge somebody in our crossover match on the 14th. The North is strong, there’s a lot of parity at the top of the North. If we have a nice run, and if we’re able to maybe upset whomever we play, we’re hoping that we get an opportunity to go into the postseason.”
Canyons will look to spark its third win streak of the season on Friday at 6 p.m. when the Cougars take on the Citrus Owls.