GVB: Royals unleash firepower on Cajon, win in three

After the intense battles in Channel League, the San Marcos girls volleyball team got a breather in its first CIF playoff match Tuesday.

The Royals needed a little less than an hour to beat Cajon of San Bernardino, 25-5, 25-16, 25-10, in a Division 1A first-round match at the Thunderhut. San Marcos, which tied for the Channel League title, improves to 23-7 and plays either Valencia or Agoura in the second round on Thursday. Cajon, the fifth-place team from the Citrus Belt League, finishes at 14-12.

With setter Gabi Peoples deftly moving the ball around, the Royals’ hitters had their way against Cajon, often times hitting against no block. Anika Wilson and middle Emma Harrah each pounded a team-high nine kills; Emily Allen put away eight and Chloe Allen added five. Peoples also got into the act with three kills.

Chloe Allen was back playing at the net full-time, adding more firepower to an already potent Royals’ attack. Allen played libero during the second half of league because of a sprained ankle. She said Tuesday the injury is 99 percent recovered.

“It’s awesome,” she said about being able to hit again. “I always love (playing) libero — passing is one of my favorite parts — but I missed hitting a lot.”

Coach Erica Menzel Downing was pleased to see Chloe putting balls away again, and she’s confident the junior will be even better in future matches.

“She has a little bit technically she still has to work on, like where she’s contacting the ball,” Downing said. “It’s great to have her back. She’s in it, she’s all in, she wants to go all the way.”

Wilson got the Royals going early, blasting five kills during a 14-2 start.

“I think we were still a little frustrated about Ventura,” said the Pepperdine-bound Wilson about  losing the outright Channel League in a  five-set loss. “We want to have a really good CIF run. We want to redeem ourselves.”

The Royals were so relaxed and dominant on the court that the most sweat they worked up was during timeouts when some players boogied to the music of MC Hammer (“Can’t Touch This”) and the Village People (“YMCA”).

Cajon took advantage of some unforced errors and got some kills from the athletic Brooklyn Wilson to stay with the Royals for half of the second set. The Cowboys led 13-12 before Chloe Allen buried a ball to start San Marcos on a 6-1 run.

Isabel Bassi came off the bench to serve a pair of aces in the third set and Harrah put away four kills and combined with Emily Allen on a block to put the match away.

Downing agreed that the Royals are a battled-tested bunch going into the playoffs

“We’ve gone through almost everything in league,” she said. “I think we’re prepared. I think mentally we’ve put (the players) in positions where we’re mentally prepared about what we need to do versus. another team. I think we’re ready.”