Outstanding Season Ended By Windward
The Culver City High girls volleyball team was well on its way toward the CIF Championship match when things took a sudden detour a few nights before that.
It happened just one block south of the 405 at Sawtelle and Palms on the Windward School campus Tuesday night, November 19.
The top-seeded Centaurs fought valiantly on each point but came up short in losing to the Wildcats in straight sets 25-20, 25-19, 25-22. The girls held late leads in the first and third sets, had made a spirited comeback in the second set but ultimately couldn't overcome Windward's constant pressure at the net.
A packed gym was well represented by a large Centaur supporting crowd including athletes from the school's other programs. Both teams' front rows were formidable and determined with their blocks and spikes and resilient with their diving point-saving digs from the backcourt positions. But ultimately, the crucial points seemed to find their marks, a decent percentage of them subtly evasive hits.
Culver coach Joe Manzo had his girls well prepared despite the absence of a key player due to injury and many members playing with other aches and sprains due to the sport's physical demand.
Coach Manzo was very proud of his team's play and spoke of their efforts throughout the tournament after the Centaurs advanced to the semifinals by beating Valley View the previous Saturday night at Del Goodyear Gym.
"We came out ready to play against a very good team. We played a little better defense than they did at the end. We neutralized their big hitter, which entitled us to let our play go."
The Culver girls controlled the points from the first set and translated that play for the entire match while winning in consecutive sets: 25-19, 25-13 and 25-18.
"We won with consistent ball up in the air, ball not on the ground, ball in play. Overall, both teams played extremely well. We just had a few more breaks than they did."
Manzo noted the play of Taylor Selfridge, "Taylor was pretty much unstoppable. Outside hitter, backcourt player, defense, all-around game, hitting from the ten-foot line, the serving, I think she just played a great game."
Selfridge, a junior, liked how the team was progressing despite the physical strain of the game, "We were clicking on all cylinders. The last couple of games we've been okay but we could have done better. We showed that tonight.
"We've gotten rest. Our team has a lot of injuries so that definitely affects our play. So we have to put people at different positions to see how it goes."
She was also complimentary of her teammates, "We worked hard on our play during practice and it's just getting better as the year goes along. Adili Rikondja and Cassidy Paperny, our middle and opposite, had a very good game at the net. Their blocking was just phenomenal. I don't know if that's something you can teach but they did really well."
The Centaur girls defeated Rim of the World the previous Thursday after drawing a first round bye. It turned into a very tough second round match that went five full sets despite Culver winning the first two. They took command in the final set, 15-7 following 25-22, 25-15, 21-25 and 22-25 scores.
The team did not take Windward lightly leading up to their cross-town battle and knew their opponent well. Selfridge smiled while being bandaged after the Valley View match, "I know the Windward players from middle school. They're really good. Tomorrow is rest day and Monday is practice. We're going to go hard all the way."
Manzo expected a tough match, "We are playing Windward High Tuesday at Windward. They're real good. We prepare for them just how we prepare for everyone else: just work hard and be prepared to be the best we can on our side of the court."
Culver City has enjoyed a very successful season, going undefeated at 8-0 while winning the Ocean League championship and posting an impressive 25-7 overall record. They hope they have made the case to be invited to the State Championships.