Story and Photos by Christian Romo
Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, Monrovia opened its 2017 campaign with unprecedented expectations and a comfortable home victory.
Treating new head coach Ashlee DiSalvo to her first win in green, the Wildcats (1-0) defeated the Diamond Bar Brahmas (0-1) in straight sets (25-16, 25-19, 25-21) Thursday afternoon in Monrovia. The Wildcats began the match on a 6-0 run, eventually building a 19-3 lead on their way to their first-set win.
“The seniors were really strong with how they came out of the gate, and that was the difference in that first set,” said DiSalvo. Senior setter Kaila Tagavilla (7) commanded the floor with aggressive serves and sets, covering every inch of space on the court, and a few outside the court, as well.
Late in the first set, Tagavilla pursued a ball into the plastic curtain dividing Monrovia’s gym, keeping the ball in play and eventually earning a point for the Wildcats. Two plays later, she chased another ball running into the scorer’s table, earning another point for her team and raucous applause from the crowd. “[Those plays] caused momentum. We took the run and just kept going from there,” said Tagavilla. “She’s been a four-year varsity starter,” said DiSalvo, “I have coaches asking me all the time, ‘hey, when is she graduating?’”
Wildcats senior hitter Caroline Mulvihill (9) led all players in with nine kills and nine digs, while senior Sydney Corazelli led the floor with seven aces and pitched in seven kills of her own. “I think it’s a great start,” said Mulvihill, who highlighted the team’s offensive ingenuity: “With our plays, we’re trying to mix it up and be creative, not doing the same thing.”
After winning the Rio Hondo league title and reaching the CIF quarterfinals in 2016, the Wildcats aim to build upon last year’s accomplishments into 2017 and beyond. Tagavilla believes they have started well. “I didn’t expect to be that far ahead, so that was cool,” she said. When asked about what needed improvement, however, DiSalvo did not hesitate: “Serve receive, serve receive, serve receive.” Both Tagavilla and Mulvihill echoed their coach, with Tagavilla also suggesting improvement in communication.
After a visit to Glendora next Tuesday, the Wildcats return to Monrovia on Thursday for a non-conference matchup against Pasadena High School. DiSalvo, who spent the last four years coaching at PHS, looks forward to the matchup with her old squad amongst a non-conference gauntlet with powerhouses Glendora, St. Joseph, Mayfield, La Salle, and Gabrielino later in the schedule. But after a solid first showing, the Wildcats began the season solidifying themselves as a favorite for their second-straight league title.