By Otto Pippenger/Staff Writer
The City College Rams women’s volleyball team were missing their three top players but still delivered a decisive 3-0 shutout of Monterey Peninsula College Lobos, their 21st victory this season.
Before the game, sophomore Rams players participated in a short but touching ceremony, accompanied by family members for “Sophomore Night,” commemorating the end of those player’s careers at City College.
Co-captains Sifa Faaiu and Sierra Nelson, as well as outside hitter Kijana Best are among those who will be moving on after this season.
Coach Saga Vae later said that he advised his players to give it “75 percent” against Monterey, hoping to avoid further injuries before their match with Cabrillo College.
Their interpretation of 75 percent was still a nearly constant assault that reliably scored on serves, and produced punishing backcourt shots that led the Rams to a victory.
But the scores remained close as the Rams cost themselves points by hitting the net and failing to recover unexpected digs.
The game started poorly for the Rams, who lost two points with a serve straight to the net, followed by the Lobos scoring on what should have been an easy return.
The Rams crowded the net, attempting tandem fake-outs and surprise dumps but were stymied by Monterey’s jousting and dives, which drove up both scores.
Technical errors cost the Rams more points than they gained as the score quickly jumped to 9-9, then 10-5 as Monterey attacked with a back court shot over the bunched Rams at the net.
Faaiu sprinted and dove expertly but hesitant teammates failed to return it, a situation that would repeat itself throughout the game.
Visibly irritated, Faaiu attacked with a backcourt shot and an explosive wipe, which the Rams kept up for the rest of the game.
Both teams retreated from the net, with Monterey maintaining their game high lead of 12-7.
With more distance between players, the Rams advantages in height and power came into play as they shot back tying the score 12-12, sending spikes and smashes over the net to the floor.
The Lobos’ attacks lacked the sharp trajectories and killing power needed to land. The set ended 25-17 as Monterey scored only after long volleys displaced the Rams’ positions and interrupted their defense.
Set two began slowly.
Many volleys passed over the net six or seven times before either team scored.
The teams stayed even to 7-7 before the Rams pulled ahead, relying heavily on Faaiu to further the lead 11-7.
Monterey called a timeout and conferred somberly before returning and spreading the team out, but remained unable to maneuver to meet or block attacks from the Rams, who outpaced them to 15-9.
The Rams’ small mistakes cost them throughout, taking big shots and risking hitting the net rather than let Monterey control the ball, despite the fact that Monterey’s attacks lacked power.
The Lobos distributed and firm positioning allowed for a wide range of valid passes after a block or set, and players were well positioned to rescue the ball if their neighbor had to dive.
The Rams won set two 25-18, playing well against an opponent prone to giving up free balls.
The Rams scored the first five points of set three before Monterey staged a brief comeback in their best effort to win at least one set, but the Rams pulled ahead to win the final set 25-17.
With the playoffs starting Nov. 18, players and coaches alike were more concerned with their next game than the victory they had just won.
“The tempo (tonight) was slow but without our key hitter we played it safe. I don’t think the girls were into it,” Vae said. “We’re playing it safe, keeping them healthy for Cabrillo.”
Vae praised Faaiu’s efforts in particular.
“She doesn’t know what 75 percent is. She got some good hits in, and she’s progressing fast,” he said.
Faaiu herself was modest.
“We started off slow, but we played them better,” she said.
Outside hitter Best also played well despite a knee injury incurred last game and felt confident it would not be an issue at Cabrillo. Best’s primary concern was fixing weaknesses highlighted by the game.
“We wanted to win by 15 or more. We didn’t come in with the right mindset,” Best said. “I think teamwork was an issue.”
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