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SHARKS SURVIVE EAGLES SCARE

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By Bucky Brennan

Sharks’ Zhanissa Mendiola attempts a jumps serve in the third set. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

The Simon Sanchez Sharks made the drive to the Harvest Christian Academy on Tuesday night. To the Sharks surprise, the Eagles came out firing. The Eagles showcased some great team volleyball to steal the first set before Edelene Cruz and Zhanissa Mendiola led the Sharks in a comeback win going 22-25, 25-18, 25-15.

The first set was all Eagles volleyball as the Harvest athletes put the pressure on the Sharks from the get go.

After the game, Mendiola said “All teams are gonna be tough as we’re near the end of the season and we’ve all played many games.”

Cruz added “We just need to take it one game at a time, work on the little things and expect every team to improve.”

The Eagles opened the first with a 6-0 run. Alyscia Quichocho contributed three aces while Namika Collard and Tatyana Ungacta had two kills in the run. The Eagles then controlled most of the set as the Sharks seemed deflated and were unable to gain any momentum. Ungacta had kills from the front and back row and Collard contributed an ace as the teams traded points and Sanchez began to wake up and close the gap. Both teams displayed tremendous athletic ability as every point saw two great offenses and defenses hammer away at each other with neither team conceding more than a few points at a time.

Sanchez’s Janna Mae Haun goes up for the attack from the outside. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

Midway through, Sanchez finally tied the set at 17-17 behind Cruz’s well placed cross-court kill. From there, the teams again traded points until the score line read 20-18 in the Shark’s favor. Cruz smashed another kill, this time with a resounding thump in the Eagle midcourt before Sanchez conceded an error to give Harvest the serve.The Eagles looked to Collard again and she rose to the occasion smashing a back row kill to make the score 21-20 as the Eagles started a comeback. From there a Sanchez error, two more aces from Quichocho, and another Ungacta kill put the score at 24-21 for the Eagles, but the Sharks went to Cruz’s red hot hitting arm and she notched the side-out for the Sharks. But at 24-22, Sanchez’s serving error gave the Eagles the point and set.

The second set saw Sanchez looking for some revenge while the Eagles were riding the wave of momentum from winning the first. the teams traded points for the first part of the set as neither could separate too far from the other. With the score at 12-12, the Sharks buckled down and started to pull away as the Eagle’s committed a string of unforced errors. With the score at 17-12 in Sanchez’s favor, Ungacta notched an ace for the Eagles to get the side-out. But Giselle Kho and the Sharks had other plans. Kho’s two kills, and an ace coupled with more Harvest errors, helped the Sharks close out the set 25-18.

Eagles’ Namika Collard passes up a hit from the relentless Sharks offense. (photo by Errol Alegre, Jr.)

With the game tied at a set each, both teams huddled as the coaches discussed strategies before the third. Fans in attendance shouted words of encouragement for both teams as they took the court. This clash, it seemed, would go to the team who could stay mentally tough as the offense and defense of both teams in the early sets showed that no points were easy points in this game. Sanchez proved their defending champion status in the third and took over the game early after a tied set at 3-3. Sanchez’s offense did everything right from there as they went on a 10-point run behind Kho’s two aces,  another booming Cruz kill and Eagles errors. With the score at 12-4 after a harvest sideout, Mendiola smashed a low push-set from setter Chanell Cantunao. Her kill brought the Sanchez bench and fans to their feet as Mendiola smashed the ball almost straight down. With the hard hit, the Sharks looked to Mendiola four more times in the set as she found the sweet spot of the ball with a perfect approach every time. Mendiola’s last kill came at match point when the Eagle’s had amassed a small three-point run that looked to be the beginning of a comeback. With the score at 24-15, Mendiola smashed a back-row kill that saw her launch from the 10-foot line and smash the ball almost straight down on the opposite side of the net much to the delight of the large Sanchez following at the Harvest gym to take the set, and earn the comeback win.

Sharks’ Zhanissa Mendiola.

For the Sharks: Cruz had seven kills, two aces, a tip and a dig; Mendiola had six kills, two digs and a tip; Kho had eight kills, four blocks, two tips, two aces and two digs, and setter Cantunao had 22 assists.

In the losing effort for the Eagles, Collard had three digs (in a row), two aces, four kills and a tip; Ungacta had four kills, three aces, two digs and a tip; Quichocho had three aces and a kill; and setter Jessa Madrid had 14 assists.

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