By Jeremy Balan
If not for a single night in mid-November of last year, the Lowell High School girls volleyball team would be on quite a streak.
The Cardinals fell to Balboa in the Academic Athletic Association championship game last year, but have been dominant in almost every other league match since the beginning of the 2011 season.
Tuesday was just more of the same, as Lowell cruised to a 25-12, 25-21, 25-16 win over visiting Washington.
The Cardinals (8-1, 5-0) haven’t lost a game in any AAA match this season and have won 17 straight regular-season matches in league play.
Senior outside hitter Emily Lim led the Cardinals with a match-high seven kills, but it was the play of two junior middle blockers that stood out most.
Juniors Amorelle Applin and Jaela Caston combined for 11 kills and five point-scoring blocks, and altered countless attacks by Washington hitters. Outside of Sacred Heart Cathedral’s middle combination of Madison Murtagh and Kaitlyn Jochum, no inside duo in The City features more power and athleticism than Applin and Caston.
“They’re doing really well,” said Lowell head coach Steven Wesley. “They both try really hard and ask a ton of questions. They don’t doubt their abilities, either, and that helps. They’re both mentally strong.”
The Eagles (4-3, 4-2) got a team-high four kills apiece from freshman outside hitter Simone House and senior middle blocker Samantha Beutler, but committed 29 unforced errors that resulted in points and had the most crucial errors in the third game.
With the third game tied at 7-7, Washington committed nine unforced errors down the stretch and Lowell won the final frame easily.
“With all respect to Lowell, we had so many unforced errors and we gave them the first game — the third game too,” said Washington head coach Jennifer Gee. “For us, it’s lack of experience.”
The Cardinals also got a significant lift from setters Gianna Braganza and Tyler Valen, who combined for six kills, mostly on surprise, second-contact set attacks. The pair also combined for five aces.
What awaits Lowell for the rest of league play will be a battle with complacency in the run-up to the AAA playoffs. The Cardinals still have to get past Wallenberg and Mission, which both came into Tuesday’s league slate with undefeated records, but likely won’t be challenged in their final seven AAA games.
The Cardinals have already defeated every AAA team that had a winning record last season, but will try to stay sharp with non-league matches against solid City programs University and St. Ignatius in the final three weeks of the season.
“We need to make sure we have all of our groundwork laid,” Wesley said. “That’s the challenge. We need to stay thinking, stay working hard and never relaxing. It’s about making sure we don’t have a lull.”