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Central Catholic squeaks out key win in battle for 3rd playoff spot
VB--Central Catholic-Lathrop pic 1
Lathrops Malia Akers hammers the ball between Central Catholics Audrey Hannick (20) and Ariana Zarate (15). - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

LATHROP — With third place in the Valley Oak League on the line, visiting Central Catholic eked out a second-set win to chalk up enough momentum to go home with a 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 18-25, 15-9 win over host Lathrop. 

“This was a heartbreaker,” Spartans coach Heather Anderson said. “But I am so proud of my girls. They fought so hard.

“We work all season to play in a (match) like this and we took them to five games, and I don’t think Central expected that to happen. We played so hard but we just didn’t get it done when we needed to.”

Lathrop (6-4 VOL, 7-7 overall) had three service errors in the last set.

“We were in good physical condition to handle that fifth set,” Anderson said. “But it was just the pressure situations that ended it for us.”

Jahsita Fa’alii led the Spartans with 12 kills and 14 digs, but it was her serving that helped the Spartans win the first game. With the Raiders (7-3, 13-10) leading 12-8, Fa’alii got a kill and followed that with a six-point service run behind four of her five aces. 

After Central Catholic worked itself back to a 19-15 lead, Lathrop’s Myani Thornton (seven kills, three aces) nailed a kill to make the score 19-16, sending Harjass Kaur (16 digs, ace) to the service line. Kaur reeled off nine service points to give Lathrop the 25-19 win.

Kaur brought the game to a standstill when she was injured at the start of the fifth set. She left the gym via ambulance with head and neck pain. 

Lathrop led 22-20 and 23-22 in the second set but could not come up with the right hit at the right time, allowing Central Catholic not to fall behind 2-0 when the Raiders stole a 25-23 win. 

“Both sides played their hearts out,” Raiders coach Robert Murr said. “Win or lose, I would have been OK with the result because of how hard both teams played.”

Karina Chavez had 45 assists and two aces for the Spartans. Krystal Tempra added 29 digs, Mary Cotton had nine kills and a block, Avleen Kaur chipped in eight kills, four blocks and an ace and Juliana Denning had five kills. Malia Akers added five kills, an ace and a block.

This is Lathrop’s last year in the VOL, and this is the first time that Spartans have been in the playoff hunt. The loss knocks Lathrop a game out of third place — the final VOL playoff slot — with four matches left to play.

“We just strive to get better every day,” Anderson said. “With the league realignment we are trying to prove ourselves and we were hoping to prove ourselves by making it to playoffs. We are not giving up on that dream yet. 

“We’re the underdog. Nobody expects us to do anything, and we are working on shifting gears and changing expectations.”