Malibu drops Oak Park in five for first-ever ‘Dig Pink’ game

After almost blowing a two-sets-to-none lead over the Oak Park Eagles Thursday, Oct. 17, the Malibu Sharks pulled out a 15-13 win in the fifth game, earning their second Tri-Valley Volleyball League win of the season (25-15, 25-19, 19-25, 15-25, 15-13).

Malibu started strong in the final game with an early 6-2 lead, which forced an Oak Park timeout. The Eagles responded with two straight points only to be countered by three unanswered points by Malibu.

After a second timeout, Oak Park roared back, scoring four points and pulling to within one. Later in the game, junior outside hitter Lily Rudnick tied the game at 13 with a kill.

With the score tied, Ara Bolander gently tapped the ball over the net, putting her team up by one.

On the next rally, Ally Sidly rocketed the ball in between a number of Oak Park defenders, sealing the victory.

But head coach Airess Padda felt that Malibu’s defensive effort was the deciding factor in the final game.

“I think our defense that game really came through,” she said. “I just think they wanted it so bad, that there was no losing. They fought really, really hard.”

Devyn Masterson believes the team’s victory had everything to do with energy.

“We really were determined to win in the fifth game,” Devyn Masterson said. “We brought that energy back onto the court and I think that helped us win.”

Masterson felt the back-to-back losses in Games 3 and 4 were due to a lack of energy and said the team got down on themselves when making mistakes.

The Sharks won the first two sets with a scrappy defensive effort and multiple service aces, most evidenced by a dominating 25-15 first-game win.

But a hard-fought third game shifted the momentum toward Oak Park. The game saw seven ties and a questionable reversed call by a referee that put Malibu down by three instead of only one. They eventually lost, 25-19.

“I think we just weren’t ready for the [loss],” senior Danica Downing said. “We all thought we were definitely going to win that third game because we won the last two.”

The disappointment from the loss bled into the fourth game, Padda said, leading to a poor outing in the fourth and a lopsided 25-15 loss for Malibu.

This was the second time this season Oak Park and Malibu have crossed paths. The Sharks lost 3-0 to the Eagles on Sept. 24.

Masterson feels camaraderie and familiarity with the team was a factor in Thursday’s win.

“I think we’ve grown as a team and gotten closer and I think that we’ve learned how to benefit each other on the court and work together better by pumping each other up and giving each other compliments and not getting down on ourselves much,” Masterson said. “I think that’s why we won today.”

Thursday night marked the first-ever “Dig Pink” game, an initiative to promote breast cancer awareness. The freshman, sophomore and varsity girls volleyball teams wore pink jerseys to commemorate the occasion, and the gym was decorated with pink balloons and ribbons.

Before the game, breast cancer survivor Sally Strip spoke to attendees of the volleyball game about her struggles fighting the disease, and singled out Malibu’s volleyball coaches in support of the “Dig Pink” games.

“Let’s all work together to beat breast cancer,” Stripp said.

Padda believes winning against Oak Park on a night which featured breast cancer awareness held a special significance.

“To be playing for women that have breast cancer, it just motivates you so much more,” Padda said. “This game will never be forgotten.”

Malibu’s next couple of games are against tough opponents, Padda said. No matter the outcome of those games, she feels that her team is headed in the right direction.

“Even if we don’t win, just to bring the energy and the fight they had tonight, I think it’s just going to be great for our team,” Padda said.