CIF Volleyball: Poly Wins Thriller, Lakewood Sweeps, Rams Pounded, Wilson Relaxes • Long Beach Post

From  It was a tight match—probably tighter than it should have been, considering that Poly was among the CIF-SS’s top ten teams coming into their first round playoff match against the Esperanza Aztecs.  Still, a win is a win, and the Jackrabbits will take their 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 27-29, 15-11 victory into Thursday’s second round.

The Rabbits overmatched the Aztecs in almost every single way—they were bigger, stronger, and faster, and for the first two sets they looked like it.  Paced by sophomore Bria Russ, who Poly’s head coach Leland McGrath says is, “A good thermometer for how our team is doing,” the Jackrabbits ripped off a 6-2 run on their way to an 11-6 run—they never relinquished the lead.  The second set was much tighter—the teams tied at 10 out of the first 11 points, before a Poly 10-1 run opened up a 20-12 lead.  In the third, though, they were down big before anybody really knew what was going on.  “Our middle blockers didn’t look comfortable out there,” said McGrath.

“The mojo disappeared, and it was harder to get it back than I thought it would be.”

After losing fairly handily in the third, Poly hoped the mojo would be back in the fourth set, and at first it appeared it was—the teams were tied once more at 11 points, but Poly held the lead from there on…right until the Aztecs tied it at 24.  A series of back-and-forths later, and Esperanza came away with the set victory, 29-27.  The fifth set was exciting, but the Aztecs committed four service errors and were never really in it, as the ‘Rabbits finally managed to put them away, 15-11, taking the match.

As crucial as Poly’s dominating middle blockers are to their success, the team’s fortunes definitely ebbed and flowed with their outside hitters, as Russ and fellow sophomore Felicia Clement combined for 28 kills on the night.  “It was a coming out party for Felicia,” said McGrath.  “She’s legit, and she’s getting better every week.”  It’s yet another wrinkle for the very young, talented Jackrabbits—with so many sophomores, you can expect new storylines to pop up nearly every match as players come into their own.

Plan on seeing more of those storylines this Thursday, as Poly faces their biggest challenge in Orange Lutheran.  We’ll update later in the day as soon as we know who’s hosting who, but leave seven pm-ish open.

Lakewood overcame their shakiness last week to step up huge in their first CIF match, sweeping Redondo off their own court, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22.  According to the PT, Taylor Hollins led the Lancers with 14 kills and 4 aces, while her counterpart Tyler Jackson added 14 kills and 3 aces.  Lakewood will face Harvard-Westlake on Thursday, and again, we’ll update with location after it’s announced.

The third, and most dominating, team in the Moore League Triumvirate, the Bruins earned the right to take the day off, since they have a bye till Thursday, when they’ll host Palos Verdes at 7pm.

It was a disappointing match for the Rams, who were dismantled on the road by Temescal Canyon, who won 25-15, 25-12, 25-13, ending Millikan’s season on a down note. 

By Mike Guardabascio

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