AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Meanwhile, Santa Fe (11-4, 4-1) rolled over Pioneer, and coach Gay Castaneda proclaimed the race for the league crown isn’t over yet. The Chiefs dropped a five-game match to El Rancho last week, and although Castaneda was not happy with her team’s performance, she found a positive in it. “If we played badly and still took (the match) to five games, I guess it’s OK,” she said. As for the second round of play, she remains more than just optimistic. She cited the consistent play of junior outside hitter Ivana Mendez and senior middle blocker Whitney Casillas and added that “some other players have been stepping up here and there.” El Rancho High School’s 3-0 sweep of California High on Tuesday night gave the Dons a 5-0 record after the first round of home-and-home play and solidified the belief they are the favorites to capture the Del Rio League girls volleyball championship. This should not come as a surprise for preseason contenders Santa Fe and California, but the manner in which the Dons handled California certainly sends a message. “My players still believe they can pull it off (win the league title),” she said. “El Rancho has been the most consistent team in league, and California can be a factor, but we have the capability of competing with both of them. We haven’t been that far away in any of our matches.” El Rancho faces host Whittier, and Santa Fe takes on visiting La Serna as second round play begins today. Horwath, who has been starting three sophomores and a freshman much of the season and says he plays all 12 of his players in every game, called attention to the absence of junior Barbara Sierra as he assessed the Condors’ play to date. “We’ve been without our top middle blocker (Sierra was sidelined after twisting her knee) for the past three and a half weeks,” Horwath said. “And she’ll probably be out at least another week.” Picking up much of the load has been versatile sophomore Marissa Rangel, sophomore setter Lauren Newcomb and steady senior middle blocker Natalie Barajas. Horwath added the Condors also have received a boost from the play of 5-foot-9 ninth-grader Chanell Puou, who was called up from the freshman team to fill in for Sierra. “Chanell has been a pleasant surprise,” Horwath said. “She has played very well.” California travels to play Pioneer in their second-half opener. La Serna coach Kathy Abell may have the sleeper in the league chase, or if nothing else, the team that could spoil somebody’s season. La Serna has the tallest team in the league, with two players more than 6-feet tall, and three others standing at least 5-7. The Lancers are 5-9 overall and 2-3 in league, and Abell thinks the best is yet to come. “I think we’re just now coming together,” said Abell before the Lancers defeated Pioneer in four games Tuesday. “We’ve been losing some close games to good teams, 29-27 to California and 27-25 to El Rancho. We’ve been right there a lot of the time. It’s just a matter of turning this thing around.” Abell mentioned the play of senior setter Clarissa Morales, who “is always doing things above and beyond the norm, whatever is necessary.” She also cited the consistent play of junior outside hitter Nicole Holmes. Abell had expressed concern early about her team’s inability to maintain focus, and she says that still is a problem. “We’ve been missing some serves, and we lose our focus at times that cost us,” she said. “If we can correct those problems, we can turn this season around.” Roger Murray can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3046, or by e-mail at roger.murray 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! El Rancho (14-4 overall) used a power game behind middle blockers Sherise Musquiz and Megan Barr. The effective setting of Aidee Marquez coupled with a hard-working defense was impressive in keeping the ball alive in extended rallies. In short, the Condors (8-5, 3-2) did not have an answer for the 6-foot Musquiz and Barr, and although coach John Horwath cited a seemingly complacent attitude among his players, it merely appeared they were overmatched.
"El Rancho still favorite for title"