Birmingham Outlasts Granada Hills in Four Sets at Home

Birmingham initially smashed through at the beginning of the first set, leading 6-1 and maintaining a great lead throughout most of it, but Granada Hills eventually fought their way back into the set. There were a couple of intense volleys and tied scores, but Birmingham did not let this phase them and they ended up winning - even if only by a slim two points, at 26-24.

Granada Hills was extremely determined during the second set, as if using the loss of the first as fuel. They cruised to a comfortable advantage in the early part of the set, even though Birmingham fought back and made it competitive. By the end of the second, the Highlanders had evened the match at 24-24, finally taking the set 25-19.

The two squads battled back and forth, with neither side able to pull away early. Granada soon sailed past with a six-point advantage of 17-23, but Birmingham was unyielding. The Patriots pulled ahead late into the third set, leading towards a couple of back-and-fourths until they eventually took the tight set 27-25 to pull ahead 2-1 in the match.

The air was strained in the Granada Hills away stands. The Highlanders needed a set victory to force a fifth and deciding set. However, if they lost that was it for them, and Birmingham would win the required best of five early at 3-1. The set started out promising for them as Birmingham’s service struggles allowed them to build an early advantage in the set. Birmingham would regain their footing after the rocky start until the two sides were deadlocked at 22-22 late in the set. Two time-outs were called amidst the score reaching 24-23 to reassess. Finally, Ashley Cordova from Birmingham valiantly dove for the ball and successfully brought it over the net, scoring the winning point and driving her team to victory at 25-23.

The varsity coach from Granada Hills, Cheyenne Bledsoe, was complimented on her team’s effort and asked if they had come into the game with any particular strategy. “This is a new coaching staff, so we were really working on trying to keep our energy high the entire time and trusting each other. That was our main focus, trusting each other and playing really disciplined volleyball.”

When asked how she felt the season was going overall for her players, she responded, “Like I said we’ve been struggling to trust each other, we just have to pick it up. We’ve been struggling this pre-season.”

The Birmingham Charter High coach, LeAnne Bennett-Riley, was also asked if they had approached the game with any specific strategy: “We mostly just try to worry about ourselves. I think when we start to focus too much on what the other team is doing is when we kinda get into our own heads and we get into a hole that is difficult to come out of. So, I just always try to tell them, focus on what you’re supposed to do, make your job and your teammates’ job easy…just do your job, do what you know you’re capable of doing and execute it to the highest of your ability and you’ll be fine.” She also mentioned watching Granada warm-up, and that she didn’t think they’d be “unmatched” going into it. “So again, it was just focusing on us, doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Bennett-Riley then commented on how she thought the season was going for her team as a whole. “I think just kind of big-picture wise, I think we’re on the right track. We’re on the right path, and I just kind of want to focus on that. I know for sure, I think everyone knows our league is the toughest league in the entire city section. It’s only our second league-game, there’s a lot of volleyball left, so I just really want to focus on how they start gelling more as a team, getting better together as a team, continuing to play at a high level, getting better, and just really preparing for those play-offs where we’re really going to see a lot of teams that weren’t in our league. But the teams in our league are helping us get ready for that challenge, so I always appreciate them.”

In a previous interview, the coach had mentioned three star players: her outside-hitter Daisy Kabakuru and Cheyenne Losino, both seniors - as well as her “star setter,” junior Ashley Cordova.

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