The Millikan girls’ volleyball team hasn’t won the Moore League championship since 1996 and no one on the current Rams coaching staff was quite sure of the last time the team beat Long Beach Poly. Millikan did just that in a thrilling five-set match at home on Tuesday, sending a message to the rest of the city that the Rams are for real in 2021.
Millikan trailed 2-1 in the match before rallying to win it 20-25, 25-20, 20-25, 26-24, 15-4.
“They needed this after COVID and everything that happened, this was so amazing,” said first-year Millikan coach Ashleigh Atsaros. “Coming in as a new coach, they had no idea who I was, I had no idea who they were. They trusted me and they put in the work. Obviously the season is still beginning but this is a huge win for them.”
The Rams were led by 12 kills from Elle Lundahl and a stat-stuffing performance from Natalie Paulson, who had six kills, four aces, and 17 digs.
“We’ve been working really hard all Summer and we just wanted to show that,” said Paulson. “It was a really exciting match, we just kept pushing each other.”
The Jackrabbits came out on top in the first set after a 5-0 service run from JoJo Fuamatu gave them an early edge, one they held the rest of the way. Millikan got a 5-0 run of their own in the second set from Brittany Mendoza, and they took that set 25-20. The Jackrabbits’ service was the story in the third frame, as sophomore setter Halie McGinest had three consecutive aces as part of a 5-0 run, and Poly had seven aces total in the frame.
The fourth set was where the match was decided, with both teams loose and taking big swings. Millikan held a slight edge throughout, and prevailed with kills from Lundahl and Paulson after it was tied 24-24. The fifth set was all Rams as Paulson had a pair of aces and Millikan won the set and the match easily, 15-4.
The result was especially impressive given that Millikan was down a talented starting middle blocker in Aaliyah Fasavalu, who was out with injury. Both Rams setters were effective distributing the ball, as Isabella Wilhelm had 13 assists and Alessia Filocamo had nine.
For Poly, the result was the same as last week’s loss to Lakewood, but the effort was significantly better, and the Jackrabbits showed resilience with both USC commits Adonia Faumuina and Rylie McGinest on the bench.
“That was my message to them was I haven’t seen them show up like that since day one at the Lakewood Tournament,” said Poly coach Megan Moenoa. “It wasn’t the result we wanted but their effort was great–it was a move in the direction we want to go, we need to bring that same energy to practice first to get the results.”
Poly’s passing was better than it was last week, and the improvement of the sophomore McGinest was impressive, as she enters her third week of setting, a position she’s stepped into because the team needed her there.
“It’s her first time doing it ever, that’s really hard and it’s hard in this program, too,” said Moenoa. “She’s an incredible athlete, and she’s really tough on herself, she’s very competitive.”
McGinest was setting the middle effectively (freshman Saniya Kimbrough hit .750 in the match) and even got a few balls to back row attackers, as she’s dramatically expanded her range from last week.
Millikan’s win on Tuesday sets up a dramatic Thursday in the Moore League, with Millikan hosting Lakewood in a battle of unbeaten league opponents, while Poly will host Wilson.