Downey clinches first CIF title

The Downey girls' varsity volleyball team clinched its first ever CIF Division 2A championship title against Troy by crushing the Warriors, 3-0. Head coach Andrea Sims said she is "amazed" at the Vikings' historic victory and received a standing ovation from a roaring crowd of faithful Downey fans at Cypress College on Saturday morning.

Both Downey and Troy made errors in the first set due to nerves, but Heather Schnars and Makayla Taylor led the Vikings to an early lead with a pair of kills. Throughout the set Downey had slips due to miscommunication between players and committed several controversial net violations, most of which turned into points for Troy.

Schnars redeemed the Vikings by bringing up their point deficit to 14-16 and 16-17. A strong defense led by Camille Valenzuela and Breana Alcantara and a net violation by Troy brought the set to its first tie at 19-19.

Alcantara and Staci Rodriguez killed for two more points at 21-21 and two consecutive errors made by the Warriors helped the Vikings lead with 23-21. Both teams raced to the finish line, with ties at 24-24, 25-25 and 26-26 until Taylor and Rodriguez closed the set with a final score of 28-26.

The Vikings struggled in the second set against a consistent Troy offense, with margins as large as 2-10. With three saves and one point for Taylor early in the set, Downey rallied hard to catch up. Rodriguez and Schnars finally brought the set to a tie at 18-18, and Taylor secured the Vikings their long-awaited lead at 22-19 and again at 23-20. A few errors by the Vikings stalled their eventual victory, but Schnars and Rodriguez won the set at 25-22.

A critical third set started off poorly for Downey, but quick thinking by Taylor and Lara Gutierrez helped the Vikings fare well. Valenzuela and Rodriguez brought the score to 7-9 and 9-11, and a net violation became a point in Downey's favor. Rodriguez and Schnars spiked for a set of kills and tied 14-14 and an ace by Schnars at 15-14 resulted in Downey's first lead in the set. Five more ties at 15-15, 16-16, 17-17, 19-19 and 23-23 made the third set a nail biter, but Schnars saved the day with 4 points for the Vikings and Rodriguez and Taylor closed out the set at 25-23.

"I'm so happy and excited," said Schnars, a junior. "Hopefully we can be a stronger team and do this all again next year."

Taylor, a sophomore, has a promising career ahead of her.

"This is great, I'm really excited," she said. "We worked as a team today and Troy was a great team to play against."