It looked like the 2019 Moore League girls’ volleyball season might be a two-month coronation for Long Beach Poly. The Jackrabbits are No. 4 in the first CIF-Southern Section Division 1 rankings of the year and have been competitive with nationally-ranked Marymount and Redondo Union.
But any fears about a thrill-free volleyball season were put to rest last week as an upset-minded Millikan team took the Jackrabbits to the limit behind a big performance from Mina Barajas, whose 26 kills helped the Rams push into a fifth set before Poly prevailed 25-17, 25-15, 19-25, 23-25, 15-13.
Poly coach Leland McGrath was happy to see his team tested.
“All credit to Millikan for making the Moore League even more exciting,” he said. “That’s great—we can learn a lot from a match like this.”
Millikan coach Tan Nguyen was proud of his team’s heart.
“I’m very proud of the girls for fighting,” he said. “We’ve been practicing all week talking about just come in and fight.”
The first two sets looked like it would be a Jackrabbit laugher, as Poly won by an aggregate of 50-32 and was able to do everything they wanted to do offensively. Millikan jumped out to a big lead in the third set led by six kills and a block from Barajas, and then won a close one in the fourth. Poly took a 6-1 lead in the fifth set but Millikan tied it at 13 before Poly won on a service error and a big kill from Adonia Faumuina. The star sophomore had 10 kills in the match, with coaches from Oregon and North Carolina in the gym to see her.
Aniah Cutler had 12 kills for Poly, and Kaia Brown had 12 kills and three blocks in the middle on .450 hitting.
“We’ve got a lot to work on,” said Brown. “We got out to a good start and we just need to fight at the end.”
Nguyen was happy for Barajas having such a big afternoon.
“She’s a great leader, she works hard every day, and she deserves to have success,” he said.
Poly (8-2, 1-0 in league) will visit Wilson on Tuesday while Millikan (1-1) will visit Lakewood.