BARSTOW • Someone passing by an open door at Barstow High School's Don Bilsborough Memorial Gymnasium might have thought a poker game was in progress on Wednesday — ace seemed to be the most popular word of the night.
The Aztecs' volleyball team beat Granite Hills 3-2 in a close game that even required extra points in the fifth game. Barstow took the final game 18-16. However, the Aztecs only outscored the Cougars by a total of four points, 106-102, in the match.
The key point in the game was a group of Aztecs that caught fire on the serve. Barstow had 19 aces in the match to Granite Hills three. Shekinah Toloumu led the Aztecs with nine aces which she earned throughout the night with an improved jump serve.
"Shekinah was able to use her serve as a weapon," Barstow coach Tynelle Oliva said. "Tonight was the first night she employed the jump serve in a game. She had a great night."
Toloumu may have led the Aztecs in aces, but Deanna Lopez, and Nicole Mathews also served well for Barstow. Lopez stepped up to serve with the fifth and final game tied 11-11 and drilled three-straight aces to give Barstow a 14-11 lead. Although the Cougars fought back to tied the game, her serves provided a boost for the Aztecs.
Mathews also had a string of three important aces in the match. Her aces in the third game helped Barstow put the game out of the Cougars' reach. Barstow won that game, their first of the night, 25-14. Barstow went on to take the fourth game 25-22 to set up the decisive fifth game.
"We just played passive as the game went on," Granite Hills coach Carolyn Ruhm said. "That and their serving just took us out of the game. Their serving was great."
Granite Hills was caught on their heels in the second half of the match after taking the first two games from Barstow 25-21 and 25-17. The Cougars led for most of the first game, but allowed Barstow to take a 19-18 lead late in the game. They closed the first game out with a series of kills and blocks from Rachel Milburn and Fanklin Barbara. Milburn led the Cougars with 17 kills while Barbara was on top with five stuff blocks and three kills.
The pair and their teammates carried the momentum into the second game and were able to steadily build and hold a lead for the win. Despite the Cougars' tough play in the opening games they were unable to withstand Barstow's attack in the later games.
"(Barbara) was having a great game," Ruhm said. "She is developing well. She had a lot of blocks and some kills, but I think we needed to get her involved with the match more. We just struggled to get the ball to her."
The Cougars setter Brielle Betts wasn't able to get Barbara the ball more often, but finished the match with 28 assists. Granite Hills Cassidy Pedersen had nine kills.
Barstow's offense was led by Mathews with 12 kills, Courtney Verrill with eight kills and Taylor Hill with five kills. Lopez played well on defense with 36 digs, Krista Kruse had 31 digs and Mathews added 28 of her own. Granite Hills' Barbara may have been a presence at the net, but so was Barstow's Kaitlyn Parks. She finished the night with six stuff blocks to lead both teams. Toloumu had 25 assists leading to points for the Aztecs.