HANFORD — A crushing defeat in the third set all but sank the Huskies on Wednesday as they fell to Central Sequoia League foe Central Valley Christian 3-1.
After splitting the first two sets, the Huskies (5-8, 1-3 CSL) started the pivotal, third set with an electrifying block by Madisen Shimmon and a 4-0 run to take a 5-2 lead. The Cavaliers (5-9, 2-1 CSL) countered with their own 5-0 run to take a two-point lead, but the Huskies answered back.
Hanford West tied the set and then took a 10-8 lead with another 4-0 run — runs were the theme of the third set. The Huskies eventually grabbed a 19-14 lead with a 7-1 run and the Cavaliers called a timeout.
“We always come out super strong … and after that we die off a little bit,” Hanford West coach Aimee Ladd said. “That momentum fades. We need to work on keeping that momentum up the entire match and keeping that kill instinct going.”
Leading 22-18, the Huskies indeed faded as the Cavaliers went on their own 7-1 run to steal the third set 25-23. First-year coach Ladd called a timeout when CVC trimmed the lead to one, but it was no use.
Following the stunning loss, the Huskies couldn’t get back on track. Any momentum they had was gone.
“I think we got ahead of ourselves,” Hanford West’s Mary Shoals said. “Once we started feeling defeated, everyone just felt down. We just need to learn to move on and pick it up.”
The fourth and deciding set wasn’t much competition for the Cavaliers. It was close to start with the Huskies actually leading 3-0 before trailing 10-7, but the Cavaliers closed the match on a 15-4 run — their largest of the match — and won the set 25-11.
“We just got in our own heads and we just need to stay focused throughout the whole game and not just stop after the first set,” Shelby Perez said.
The match started out well for the Huskies as they drew first blood. Hanford West’s Perez, an all-around great player who leads the team in kills and aces, had the first kill of the match to get things underway.
Holding onto a one-point lead, crisp passes and good finishes helped the Huskies go on a 7-1 run to build a 17-11 lead. The Cavaliers fought back and cut it to a one-point game at 18-17. But, unlike the third set, the Huskies held the lead and won 25-21 when the Cavaliers played a ball out of bounds.
“Our whole energy was there and our passing was really there,” Perez said. “We were reading the ball well and we were working together.”
The second set was much like the fourth set as the Huskies kept the score close early. Hanford West trailed 8-5 before the Cavaliers went on a 10-3 run to take complete control of the set. CVC won the set 25-10 and evened the match 1-1.
“We just shut down,” Perez said. “That’s when we need to fight the hardest and cheer each other on the most.”
After the second-set loss, Hanford West’s Taylor Gomez said, “Our energy just went down and we didn’t really talk as much as we should have.”
“What really needs to be cleaned up is how we work together and just our passing,” Gomez said.
The Huskies have a CSL home match next Tuesday against Exeter (13-4, 3-0 CSL) at 6 p.m.
“I really want to step up as a captain and just talk to my team and pull them together and let them know we can’t win them all, but we definitely can fight,” Shoals said.