The Long Beach Poly girls’ volleyball team was still smarting from its five-set loss at Millikan earlier this year, and the Jackrabbits wanted to make a statement in their rematch with the Rams at home on Thursday afternoon. They did exactly that in a 90-minute showcase of just how much they’ve improved in a sweep of Millikan, 25-23, 25-19, 25-17.
The win puts Poly in sole possession of second place in the Moore League, with the potential to clinch that position next week in a road trip to Wilson.
“They really limited their errors, they played great defense, and they put up a great block,” said Millikan coach Ashleigh Atsaros. “They were picking everything up today.”
The first 10 minutes of the match looked like a repeat of the teams’ first meeting, as Millikan jumped out to an 18-10 lead behind a strong start from Dani Paulson, and three aces. But from that point it was like the Jackrabbits flipped a switch. They used an 11-2 run to take a 21-20 lead, including a 5-0, two-ace service run from sophomore Halie McGinest. After falling behind 23-21, Poly got three kills from USC-bound senior Adonia Faumuina to close things out.
Asked what happened in that stretch, McGinest shrugged.
“I think we were getting beat by so much that everyone was losing confidence–but then we started to pick it up,” she said. “I was down a little, but I started saying, ‘You got to get going if you want to win.’”
Poly coach Megan Moenoa directed all credit for the turnaround to her team.
“It’s just consistency, repeating our messages, I’m not giving any great speeches at this point,” said Moenoa. “All the great speeches happened at the beginning of the year.”
One obvious spark was the connection between Faumuina and McGinest. The two split duties at setter, and combined for 34 assists and 18 kills, and clearly had a great connection working, with Poly getting way more quality swings than they did in the first matchup.
“This is our first time playing together but we basically grew up together,” said Faumuina, who is longtime teammates with Halie’s older sister Rylie, still out with injury. “When I met Rylie, I met Halie–so that connection was already there before she got here. It’s nice to have that.”
The Jackrabbits took the second and third sets with relatively little drama, leading 22-13 at one point in the third set.
“We really needed this match,” said Faumuina.
“This was really encouraging because you can see the improvement from the first time we played them,” said Moenoa. “We were so pumped up, and Millikan started on a run and you could see our confidence was low–but the difference is they kept working, they found their rhythm, and they changed it.”
Poly got 10 kills from Faumuina, eight from McGinest, seven from freshman Emma Holder, and six from Meredith Houston. The Jackrabbits’ back row passed exceptionally, particularly libero Taylor Mercado and back-row player Maya De Los Reyes.
Millikan got six kills and two aces from Paulson and five kills from Elle Lundahl. Atsaros said her Rams need to re-find their footing.
“We just need to get some wins,” said Atsaros. “We’re in the gym, reminding them every day how much talent they really do have.”