Culver Girls Vollyball Bids Farewell
Centaurs Lose High Caliber Playoff Game
November 20, 2014
By Fred Altieri
"Six or seven rallies back and forth over the net for a point is incredible. It wasn't like it was free ball. It was straight down hit, dug, transition, block, cover, pull back up, hit back over, diving dig.
"It was all kinds of amazing plays. Both teams just played incredible. It's sad that one team had to lose. When you watch a match like that, all you can say is: "Wow."
The words of Culver City High head coach Joe Manzo were spot on but it certainly felt like there should have been a few games remaining in the 2014 season for the Culver City High girls varsity volleyball team.
But it was not to be despite their faithful Centaur fans in attendance at Del Goodyear Gymnasium dreaming, screaming and yearning for more.
Ocean League champion Culver City lost a thrilling five-set heartbreaker at home to Elsinore on Saturday, November 15, in the quarterfinals of the 2014 CIF Southern Section Division 3AA Girls Volleyball Playoffs, 13-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-23 and 15-11.
After having eliminated their two previous playoff opponents, Brethren Christian and Poly High, in straight sets Culver quickly jumped to a two-set lead.
Coach Manzo opened: "Actually the first and second games on Saturday were an improvement from our game on Thursday. Against Poly we didn't pass as well so we focused on passing against Elsinore which pretty much worked to perfection in the first couple of games.
"We were passing right on spot. We were able to run our middle. We were able to run outsides quick and just get the Elsinore defense guessing and guessing. We were beating their block."
Toward the end of the second set the spirited Centaur students cheering from the western bleachers were soon having their own boisterous chanting match with an awakened Elsinore cheer section in the eastern bleachers as the Tiger girls began stringing some long points together.
Manzo noticed the effect: "I think it took Elsinore a little bit to get used to their surroundings and their crowd pulled in at the end of the second game. That was a big boost for them because they had a big crowd that came in."
Elsinore got its wind midway through the third set and comfortably pulled away going into the fourth as both teams upped the level of play. It was the critical moment according to Manzo: "The fourth game was definitely a pivotal game for momentum, mood swing and confidence builder. The winner of the set was going to have an edge going into game five."
A time violation also played a role in the lead swing... and the Tigers took full advantage. "It was 14-10 and one of my girls went back to serve the ball and couldn't hear the referee's whistle and didn't see the hand signal. There's only eight seconds allotted to serve which in turn gave the ball back to Elsinore. It made the momentum change as well.
"But we still had a 15-12 lead going into it and still had the direction we were heading. The game could have gone either way the way the defenses were playing on both sides and coverage on the hitters. This team was deserving more and wanting more. We had the chemistry to go further. We just came up a little short."
The fifth set found the Centaurs still fighting but down 10-5. They managed to rally within two points but it wasn't enough. The Tigers' recent past was not lost on Manzo.
"Elsinore was together last year and lost in the quarters or semis in their division. So they've been through it as a group and they had experience as well.
"If you can just slowly concentrate on keeping the one team down to just their serve and side out, you catch a couple each time, you catch up quicker than you know it. Unfortunately we weren't able to catch up in time for them."
Manzo had praise for his players, captains and program: "We were pretty dominating in all the matches we played except for a couple. It was pretty much 3-0's all the way through. Our three loses in matches were five games and four games so it wasn't that we were dominated on the other end.
"They weren't happy because they didn't get to their goal. But they looked at where they started from and the steps they were looking at: being strong in some tournaments, winning league and going far in the playoffs. The third round is not a bad stretch, the top eight teams. We had a great draw. We just didn't take advantage of it.
"The captains, Taylor Selfridge and Mina Grant, really did a great job keeping the team together and focused on our goal and our mission. They did their best to keep the team and program going in the right direction from top to bottom.
"I have to thank the seniors for putting up with me for the past three years. A different coach and a different system and they tried hard to do the best they could for everybody. What makes the program good is the community, the parents and the kids willing to step up and do the best they can."
The Centaur girls volleyball program is on a definite rise after winning the Ocean League for the second consecutive year while also advancing into the CIF Playoffs the past three years under Manzo.
He shared the credit: "It's the feeding program from the middle school because the past couple of years they've had real good classes coming in. And next year's going to be a good class that comes in. It's learning to put the talent together and make them work together and hope they can work and coincide together on the court.
"We pretty much have a strong nucleus coming back in all positions. There are just a couple of areas to fill but we should be able to fill those no problem with our J.V. team and the incoming freshman class as well."