With one week left in the girls volleyball regular season, the San Diego Jewish Academy Lady Lions (14-1,7-1), are almost assured of making their first ever CIF playoff appearance. The Lady Lions are tied with Vista's Calvary Christian for first place in the Citrus West league and they have already avenged their only loss of the season by beating Calvary Christian the second time around on Oct. 16.
With the playoffs in mind, the Lady Lions easily swept the Escondido Adventist Academy Lady Hawks (1-14, 0-5) on Oct. 27, by the scores of 25-13, 25-5, and 25-21.
First year Head Coach Melissa Maxwell has turned the Jewish Academy's volleyball program around. Under Maxwell, the Lady Lions have won more matches this season then the previous three years combined.
"It's a combination of things than have given our team this success," said Maxwell. "It's the dedication of the girls to our volleyball program - stressing the fundamentals, team play, positioning, and sets. It's also, the support of the athletic department and the girls' willingness to learn.
Game one of the Escondido Adventist match started with the home team up 1-0. But Lady Lion Aliza Grossman reeled off four straight service points putting her team up 6-3.
Lady Hawk Katelyn Phillips responded with four straight service points giving her team the lead back at 7-6.
After two kills by Jewish Academy freshman sensation Gabbi Rothman, the Lady Lions were up 13-11. Then teammate Sophia Gross strung together seven straight service points with an impressive four aces. Coupled with kills by Aliya Luther, the Lady Lions lead jumped to double digits at 21-11. Game point was made on another Luther kill.
Game two saw the Lady Lions jump out to a commanding 7-0 lead via Grossman's seven straight service points with two aces. Michele Goldfarb-Shapiro then contributed three kills in a row. Goldfarb-Shapiro showed that she could serve as well, with two straight aces to push the lead to double digits at 12-2. Lady Lion Katie Sherman then served eight straight with four aces giving the Jewish Academy an insurmountable lead at 22-4. Game point came on a Maddie Ross kill.
In game three, there were six ties and seven lead changes, with all the Lady Lions getting into the action. With the Lady Lions up 4-3, Lady Hawk Celina Cuevas served three straight including one ace, giving her team the lead. Rothman's two jump-serve aces gave the Lady Lions a temporary lead at 8-7, but Escondido Adventist responded with Katelyn Phillips' three straight service points. A Celina Cuevas kill gave the Lady Hawks their biggest lead of the match at 18-13. But, the Jewish Academy chipped away as Rothman's jump serve was on the money for four straight with two aces. After Ronit Hakkakah's kill made it 21-20, the Lady Lions never looked back, and game and match point came when a Lady Hawks serve went out of bounds.
Maxwell used all of her players in the match against Escondido Adventist and praised her team's effort.
"It was cool that we came back in game three after being down most of that game," she said. "It is not just our starting six, but all of our 12 players that can do the job. Our team has heart and we never let down. Our motto this year is "Play hard, play smart, and play with heart."
Leading the way for the Lady Lions was Gabbi Rothman with nine kills, 19 assists and nine service points with four aces.