Sophomore outside hitter Nora To’omalatai and the women’s volleyball team started the 2013 season with two impressive victories Friday in the Rio Hondo Quad Tournament.

With a four set win against Rio Hondo College (2-3) and an impressive come-from-behind five set triumph over Victor Valley College (1-2), interim head coach Bill Sanchez and his young team has returned to the courts determined to bring another conference championship to PCC.

“We are fortunate to have a couple of outside hitters with experience, including an all-conference player like Nora To’omalatai.” Sanchez said.

In the first match, the Lancers defeated host Rio Hondo College in four games, 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, and 25-18.

It was the play and leadership of To’omalatai and sophomore Thula Parks that helped propel the Lancers to a four set victory against Rio Hondo.

In the first game of the tournament, To’omalatai, the 5-foot-8 Monrovia High graduate, led the Lancers in kills, 18, and digs, 10, to go along with her three aces.

“We were pretty tired playing two games on Friday,” To’omalatai said. “Playing twice kind of affected us a little in the second game, but we fought it out and ended up winning, so that felt good.”

Joining To’omalatai Friday was sophomore outside hitter Thula Parks, whose leadership may not show up on the stats sheet; but is just as important as any kill or dig. Parks added 8 kills, 4 aces and 3 digs against Rio Hondo College.

“Thula Parks is going to also help with the leadership aspect on the floor,” Sanchez said. “They both have a year of play under their belts and know now what it takes to be successful, playing with many great teammates a year ago.”

Returning sophomore setter Tiffany Roesler, 5-9, Covina High, contributed with a team high 36 assists and five blocks against Rio Hondo College. Roesler also tallied four aces and another team leading 23 assists in the Victor Valley win.

It was Parks’ play against Victor Valley College in which she showcased her athleticism and heart by recording 16 kills and a team high 20 digs, while To’omalatai led the team in kills with 23.

“We showed resiliency in that Victor Valley match,” Sanchez said. “You never know how you are going to respond when you fall behind. We came out fired up for game four, and pretty much carried the play the rest of the match.”

In the win against Victor Valley the Lancers won a 5-set nail bitter 25-21, 21-25, 24-26, 25-12, and 15-11.

“For me, it was good to just play a match because you don’t see things clearly in practice,” Sanchez added. “We need to keep working hard and hustling around that court.”

In only her second collegiate game, freshman Angela Banuelos added 9 kills while connecting on an impressive 52%.

If the Lancers can get Banuelos to produce consistently and continue to learn from the likes of To’omalatai and Parks, the future looks bright.

“Angela and Briana (Hilton) played great and really helped us out,” To’omalatai said. “They’re great! I love playing with them. Angela was at the net blocking everything and killing every ball set for her, and Bri did the same. She played her heart out.”

Returning sophomore Briana Hilton displayed her growth from last year by recording 12 kills in the two victories.  If Coach Sanchez can get consistent production from both Hilton and Banuelos, the Lancers may be able to replicate last year’s successful season.

However, after only two games on the young season, To’omalatai feels the team is continuing to grow and knows there are areas in which they can improve.

“We need to work a little harder on our service receive and our defense, with more practice that will come to us,” To’omalatai added.  “We’re a strong team, and we proved that on Friday, but we have a lot of areas we can improve upon.”

Follow Nora To’omalatai and the rest of the women’s volleyball team as they take part in the El Comino Quad tournament, this Friday, Sept. 13, against Cypress College.

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