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Battle for Top Belongs to the Wolverines in 5

Volleyball: Jakle leads Harvard-Westlake with 25 kills in 15-10, 7-15, 14-16, 15-6, 15-9 victory over Royal.


SIMI VALLEY — The Royal High gym was hot and humid.

It didn't get any cooler during the girls' volleyball match between Royal and Harvard-Westlake, which went two hours, 34 minutes.

To stake a claim as the best team in the region, the winner on Thursday would have to earn it.

That team would be Harvard-Westlake, which defeated Royal, 15-10, 7-15, 14-16, 15-6, 15-9, in a nonleague match that was the season opener for both teams.

Anne Jakle, who missed most of last season with an ankle injury, had 25 kills for Harvard-Westlake.

Jakle, who did not play in the Wolverines' five-game loss to Royal last season, said the view from the court beat the view from the bench.

"Very much so," said Jakle, a 6-foot-1 senior. "I can't even describe [being back healthy]."

Jakle was especially effective in the final two games, delivering eight kills without a hitting error after moving from outside to opposite hitter.

"I was really jittery at first and made a ton of unforced errors," Jakle said. "But I found my comfort zone."

Courtney Guerra, who is making a recruiting trip to Fresno State today, was in the zone all evening for Royal.

Guerra had 41 kills with only 12 hitting errors.

"I'm not disappointed at all," Guerra said. "It was a great match, especially for our first one."

The match was played in September, but the second part of it looked like it belonged in August.

Harvard-Westlake outside hitter Joanna August had 17 of her 20 kills in the final three games.

With the match tied at 1-1, Harvard-Westlake opposite hitter Liz Gelbard went up for a block, came down on Guerra's foot and left the match with an injured left ankle.

Royal, which trailed, 14-13, at the time, sensed a shift in momentum, tied the score at 14, and later won the game for a 2-1 lead.

"That could have been a crucial time," Harvard-Westlake Coach Jess Quiroz said.

Instead, the Wolverines calmly adapted and won the final two games behind Jakle, August and stellar defensive play by middle blockers Kelley Ayers and freshman Courtney Schultz.

Schultz and outside hitter Karalyn Kuchenbecker became the first freshmen to play varsity volleyball at Harvard-Westlake.

Schultz made an immediate impact, collecting a block on her first rotation and finishing with eight kills and four blocks.

"I thought our middle blockers did an awesome job," Quiroz said.

Royal dropped the first game and held a slim 4-3 lead in the second when their two offensive threats, Guerra and Teresa Russell, helped the Highlanders score nine consecutive points.

The scoring chart during the run had a familiar ring to it: Russell kill for sideout, Guerra kill, Guerra block, Guerra kill, Guerra kill, Patti Myszkowski kill, Russell block, Russell kill, Guerra kill, Ayers hitting error.

After two games, Guerra had 17 kills and three hitting errors.

Royal setter Michaela Skelly, a transfer from Agoura, struggled in the first two games and was briefly replaced by Annette Wilson. Skelly improved when she returned for the final three games.

"That was a great season opener for both of us," Royal Coach Bob Ferguson said. "It was a great opportunity for us to see what we could and couldn't do."

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