HEMET — Down three starters, coming off a couple of close calls and facing a hot Tahquitz squad, the West Valley girls volleyball team’s hold on its 14-match Mountain Pass League winning streak appeared a little shaky.
After 90 minutes in the Mustang Gym, however, the grip was rock-solid, as hard as a Sky Rosales serve.
In a battle of the Mountain Pass League co-leaders, West Valley pulled out a tight first set, then dominated on the way to a 25-22, 25-13, 25-17 victory. It was the 13th straight victory over Tahquitz and left the Mustangs (14-3, 5-0 in league) alone at the top of the standings at the halfway point of league play.
“Tahquitz has been beating everyone in our league pretty badly and we had a couple of matches that went five,” West Valley coach Shaun Pulsipheer said. “So, on paper, they looked better. So it was huge for some girls to step up into starting roles and play their hearts out.”
West Valley was strong in all phases, but the biggest difference came from the service line. The Mustangs produced 21 aces to nine service errors, and Tahquitz (12-4, 4-1) struggled, with one ace to 12 service errors.
Leading the way for the Mustangs was setter Rosales, who had eight aces.
The pivotal point in the match came at the start of the second set. After a gripping first set in which the teams traded the lead down the stretch, Rosales opened the second with a 7-0 run, including five aces.
“She just opened up the floodgates to start that set,” Pulsipher said. “It gave us a ton of momentum.”
Rosales is short in stature, but fires fastballs from the service line, crediting her work in the weight room for the power.
“I used to have it (the serve as a big weapon) off-and-on,” Rosales said. “Then I kind of lost it. But I kept practicing hard at it and I’ve gotten it back.”
Rosales also operated at peak efficiency in her primary job, feeding West Valley’s outside hitters. With two starters out, sophomores Kiya Bonney, MiaBella DePhillippo and Kamryn Hubbell all swung effectively. The Mustangs finished with a solid team hitting percentage of .297.
Tahquitz’s struggles from the service line were decisive in the first set. West Valley picked up seven of its first 18 points without touching the ball.
After Rosales’ service onslaught to start the second, the Titans made one brief run, reeling off five straight points after going down 13-4. The final set remained tight until West Valley closed with a 9-1 run.
It was a night of different emotions for Tahquitz coach Jayme Palmer, who served as an assistant at West Valley until this season.
“I’ve coached some of those girls since seventh grade,” Palmer said. “I know they were under some pressure against their old coach. I’m really proud of them.”
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