With a relatively new and young team, St. Anthony coach Alicia Lemau’u and the Saints took the first step to making it back to the CIF Southern Section championship with a first round 25-11, 23-25, 25-19, 25-15 win over Riverside Poly in the Division 5 playoffs.
The Saints (18-10, 6-2) cruised to a first set win and it looked like St Anthony was on its way to a sweep.
Sophomore setter Isabella Bareford was crucial for the Saints’ success as she put her hitters in positions to be effective — while also knowing when to dump the ball for easy points.
“I felt like we played really well tonight,” Bareford said. “It was a solid win, we shouldn’t have lost that one set. But other than that, it was a solid win.”
Bareford’s favorite target in the first set was sophomore Camille Harvey who accounted for seven points.
While the Saints were rotating players in and out, Riverside Poly jumped to an early 4-0 lead in the second set.
“I like to change lineups here and there,” Lemau’u said. “So, when the girls come out sometimes — it’s a slow start. Because they need a few points to adjust.”
St. Anthony tied the set twice at 11 and 12, but errors proved to be the Saints’ momentum killer as they lost the second set 25-23.
On the court, junior Noronzie Malala was one of the most energetic players on the court as she provided a lift when the team looked shaky in the third set.
“I just think the more energy the girls have and that I have — the more we have more of a hunger to succeed,” Malala said. “Most of all it’s the spirit to want to win, obviously what team doesn’t want to win. I feel like when I bring my energy it brings me and the girls up.”
Although this is Malala’s first year with the program, it’s clear that she has become one of the leaders on the team.
With her energy St. Anthony never trailed during the rest of the match as they won the third and fourth set 25-19 and 25-15, respectively.
In the third set, Riverside Poly kept it close as St. Anthony only led 11-9. But, a five-point run by the Saints was enough of a cushion to take the win.
In the final set, St. Anthony cruised as they took an early 4-0 lead and never let Riverside Poly get closer than six points after taking a 9-2 lead.
“It felt so good to beat that team,” Malala said. “It meant a lot and it brings us that much closer to winning a CIF championship.”
Sage Gamble and Melody Lopez combined for 19 kills while Harvey finished with seven. Bareford had 28 assists, 10 kills, and three aces. Mariana Louis and Nofo Selu combined for 22 digs in the back row.
The Saints will now face Sonora on Thursday.
Long Beach Poly def. Aliso Niguel, 3-1 >> The Jackrabbits fought off an upset-minded Aliso Niguel team 25-18, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21. Poly was led by Kalyah Williams (10 kills, two blocks), Chastity Ah-Hong (eight kills), Onye Ofoegbue (nine kills, nine blocks), Allanah Cutler (nine kills), and Kaia Brown (eight kills). The Jackrabbits will host Foothill on Thursday in the second round.
Lakewood def. Chaparral, 3-1 >> The Lancers looked crisp in their start to the playoffs, winning 25-12, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16. Destynie Viliamu had 18 kills and 12 digs, Julia Crawford had 13 kills and 12 digs, and Alanni Carter had 10 kills. Lakewood will travel to San Juan Hills on Thursday.
Hart def. Wilson, 3-0 >> The Bruins were swept 25-19, 25-20, 25-22 to end their season on the road.
St. Joseph def. Millikan 3-0 >> The Rams were swept on the road to end their season.