Maturity has made a big difference in the play of the Nordhoff High girls' volleyball team.
That was evident in Ojai on Tuesday night when the Southern Section Division IV champion opened state playoff action with a convincing 15-9, 15-3, 13-15, 15-10 victory over Tollhouse Sierra.
Led by Alison Nofrey with a 19-kill, 11-dig, six-block performance, the top-seeded Rangers (21-3) exploited Sierra's weaknesses to advance to Saturday's Southern California Division IV regional semifinals. "Our maturity level is better, now that we're older," Nofrey said.
In past seasons, the Rangers often dominated teams early in matches, only to suffer concentration lapses. The price frequently was paid in five-game defeats.
"We know we have a good team," said Sarah Wright, who sparked Nordhoff with her serving, passing and defensive play. "Last year, we doubted ourselves."
With Nofrey and Sami Sawyer (11 kills, seven blocks, 28 assists overall) controlling the net, Nordhoff had few problems in rushing to a two-game lead.
Sierra, the Central Section Division IV runner-up, led, 9-1, in the third game before Wright ran off eight service points to make it 9-8. Nordhoff took a 13-11 lead before Sierra (23-5) took the game with three aces and a Mollie Jordan kill.
But Nordhoff steadily pulled away in the final game, Nofrey and Sawyer dominating again from the net and Wright contributing from the service line.
"That's the best net play and the best challenge we've had all year," Nordhoff Coach Cheryl Glass said.