BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls’ volleyball Coach Miguel Segura knows his team is capable of playing the way it did in the fourth game of its Santa Cruz League match Thursday against St. Genevieve.
The Guards won the game by 14 points and committed just three unforced errors. However, in three other games, Bell-Jeff let the Valiants hang around — even losing the first game — and had stretches where it struggled.
Luckily for the Guards, they were able to shake off the first-game woes and come back to defeat visiting St. Genevieve, 24-26, 25-16, 25-19, 25-11.
The win for Bell-Jeff, which is ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-A, is its 50th league triumph in a row, a streak that dates back to 2006. In addition, the victory keeps the Guards (10-6, 6-0 in league) in first place in the Santa Cruz League with two contests remaining.
Bell-Jeff is attempting to capture its seventh straight league championship, something no other team in any sport in the city can claim. The team’s big showdown will come when the Guards host second-place St. Anthony on Oct. 30. When the teams played for the first time this season last week, Bell-Jeff escaped with a five-game win.
Segura, who has coached the Guards throughout the current streak, said his squad is going to have a hard time getting by St. Anthony if it plays like it did in the first game against the Valiants (7-5-1, 2-3).
“I don’t know why we have problems with slow starts, but it’s happened a lot with us this season,” Segura said. “It usually takes a team pushing us or winning a game off of us for us to respond and fight back. It shouldn’t have to come to that. When we play like we did in that fourth game, we can be a very good team.”
Bell-Jeff junior setter Amanda Maalouf said her teammates have to make sure they didn’t look past opponents while they were moving toward the crucial contest with St. Anthony.
“We can’t do that. We can’t overlook any team,” said Maalouf, who had 30 assists. “If we look past a team, they could come back and beat us. We just have to focus on the game that we’re playing.”
The Guards received a solid game from senior outside hitter Taryn Nelson, who had 22 kills to go along with six aces and 16 digs. Teammate Natalie Bravo had eight kills and six aces and Elizabeth Fundora contributed six kills.
The Guards led for most of the first game, even enjoying a 22-16 advantage. But the Valiants embarked on a big 8-0 run and had Bell-Jeff playing catch-up with a 24-22 lead. The Guards did get some breathing room when Bravo delivered a kill and an ace in succession to tie the score at 24. However, Bell-Jeff wasn’t able to return two consecutive balls that fell on its side, giving St. Genevieve the win.
In the second game, the Guards had an eight-point lead only to see it whittled down to four, 18-14. But the team was able to stave off the Valiants’ charge to close out the stanza.
Another eight-point advantage at 18-10 in the third game was again cut into by the Valiants, who scratched back to within one, 19-18. But once again, the Guards fought back, outscoring the Valiants, 6-0, the rest of the way.
The fourth game was complete domination by Bell-Jeff.
“We have to start getting better and playing with more consistency,” Segura said. “We have to improve going into the playoffs.”