The Long Beach Poly girls’ volleyball team hadn’t played a match in three weeks and had to travel to Bakersfield for their CIF State Division 1 opener against Liberty on Tuesday afternoon. It was a long trip for the Jackrabbits, but worth the drive as they made a loud-and-clear statement that they’re ready for State in a 25-18, 25-22, 25-15 sweep of the host Patriots.
The Jackrabbits dominated just about every facet of the game. Of Poly’s 75 points, 12 of them came on aces and another nine came via blocks.
“I was a little worried because it’s been a millennium since our last match,” said Poly coach Leland McGrath. “I think we were ready to play well. A lot of our players just got their first playoff experience in our last match, and there weren’t any nerves tonight.”
Poly went up 5-0 in the first set and was in control of the match almost the entire time from that point, as setters Adonia Faumuina and Pearl Tuliau spread the ball around. All six of Poly’s hitters had at least four kills and none of them had more than seven.
“It’s been awhile since we played a real match,” said Faumuina. “We’ve been working hard getting ready for it. I thought our blocking came alive tonight.”
The Jackrabbits got five blocks from Rylie McGinest, three from Faumuina, and two apiece from Kaia Brown and Elle Requejo.
“Their sets were high and kind of predictable so we were ready for them,” said McGinest. “We were so ready to play a real match again.”
Poly got a nice night from Faumuina, whose powerful jump serve literally elicited an audible gasp from the home crowd the first time she employed it. The super sophomore had seven kills, 12 assists, eight digs, three blocks, and four aces. McGinest had four kills and five blocks; Requejo had seven kills and two blocks; Aniah Cutler had four kills; Kaia Brown had six kills; and Kamy Anaya had five kills. Nicaylah Iamaleava had seven digs and three aces, and Grace Abdoo had 13 digs and four aces.
Poly only trailed in the second set, falling behind 12-10 before Abdoo stepped to the back line for a dominant service run. She had two aces as part of a 6-0 run which included a solo block by McGinest. The Patriots took a 21-20 lead late in the set, but Faumuina and Brown teamed up on a block, then Faumuina had an ace. McGinest finished the set on another solo block.
The road gets shorter but harder for the Jackrabbits as they’ll travel to top-seeded Sierra Canyon on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. for the second round of the state playoffs.