Boys’ volleyball slides past San Marino in fifth set for a victorious Senior Night

Story by: Zoe Chen 

Staff Writer

Photo by: Shin-Hye (Rachel) Choi 

Staff Photgrapher

Boys’ volleyball faced the San Marino Titans — their rival and the only team that managed to crack South Pasadena’s perfect league record — in a redemption match on Thursday, April 11. The teams squared off on South Pasadena’s home court. Senior night ceremonies were held before and after the game, and graduating varsity seniors were given gift baskets, leis, and framed jerseys. 

South Pasadena lost their last game to San Marino 0-3; they were this time determined to turn the tables. San Marino took the first three rallies of the first set, 0-3, with kills that South Pasadena blocked out or onto their own court. However, a kill from junior opposite hitter Jack Pellerin, which the Titans dug but did not manage to get over the net in three contacts, gained the Tigers their first point, 1-3. 

Each team performed strong kills that the other team was often unable to dig or successfully block, and they settled into a back-and-forth rhythm. The teams tied almost every other rally, and at every point value from 8-8 to 12-12. 

The Tigers took their first lead of the game after a block from senior outside hitter Isaiah Hyun. This elevated the Tigers’ momentum, and the Tigers grew their lead to three, then four points over the Titans, 18-14. 

A powerful kill from junior middle hitter James Dowd smashed onto the Titans’ court before they could react. When senior libero Ryan Estanislao served two aces, the score rose to 24-18. A final kill from Dowd closed the set in the Tigers’ favor, 25-19. 

The Tigers took an early lead in the second set. The Titans’ energy decreased, and many of their kills were poorly timed or out of bounds entirely. 

Dowd’s kills were an important contributor to the Tigers’ point gain — quick, close sets to the middle hitter allowed for aggressive kills at an almost vertical angle. South Pasadena took a five-point lead early in the set, 8-3. 

Still, San Marino was never very far behind. The Titans’ kills, combined with the Tigers’ own service errors and bad hits, gave the Titans the comeback they needed. The scores came close with a Titan kill at 11-10. South Pasadena pulled ahead, but again, San Marino was able to catch up. This time, the Titans surpassed the Tigers’ score to take their first lead of the set. 

The scores were tied at 18-18 when South Pasadena blocked the ball out of bounds. With their previous five-point lead gone, the Tigers called their first timeout. 

Dowd, following the timeout, countered a Titan kill with a kill of his own to again tie the scores at 19-19. Rallies became longer; the ball sometimes went over the net 10 times before falling. A San Marino block upped their score 21-24, putting the Titans a point away from a set victory. The Tigers managed two more points from kills, raising the score to 23-24. 

The Tigers were one point away from a deuce. Still, San Marino performed a powerful kill straight down into the Tigers’ back court. The set went to the Titans, 23-25 — each team had won a single set. 

South Pasadena again took an early lead in the third set but lost it towards the end. San Marino began to take advantage of dump sets, which had previously gained the Tigers a few points. The Titans pulled ahead, 10-11, after performing a kill that flew between two Tiger blockers. 

Back-to-back kills from junior outside hitter Martin Walsh and a tip from junior middle hitter Jacob Chuang closed the score gap, 15-16. However, the Titans pulled ahead again, using tips over Tiger blockers to up their score. A final San Marino tip ended the third set in the Titans’ favor, 20-25. The match score was 1-2. 

The fourth set began. Each team vied for the early upper hand, and South Pasadena succeeded in taking an early lead. This set, they managed to stay ahead all the way to 25 points. 

A kill from Pellerin brought the score to 7-2, and the Tigers continued to advance. San Marino became reckless, touching the net more than before. However, San Marino was also able to devise a tipping strategy that caught South Pasadena off guard almost every time. 

Senior setter Ian Chang’s successful dumps raised South Pasadena’s energy. When Dowd blocked the ball, the Tigers approached victory 21-15. A final fumble from San Marino brought South Pasadena to 25.

The match score was tied 2-2, and the game moved on to its fifth and final set. 

South Pasadena had taken early leads in three of the previous sets. This was a powerful advantage in the fifth set, given that the set is only played to 15 points, rather than 25. 

Walsh spiked the ball straight down onto San Marino’s court. Pellerin performed another powerful kill, but South Pasadena was again caught off guard when the Titans tipped the ball over the Tigers’ left-side blockers. The scores tied 5-5, then 7-7. 

Tips gained the Titans the majority of their points; the Tigers repeatedly left the court behind their blockers unprotected. South Pasadena called a timeout at 9-8. 

The Tigers were able to keep up a Titan tip in the first rally after the timeout — this seemed to be a turning point. South Pasadena soon began to draw ahead with kills too fast for San Marino to dig. However, the Tigers soon forgot about the Titans’ earlier tipping stunt, and the scores tied 13-13; each team was two points away from winning the match. 

Frantic timeouts were taken by both teams. Chang dumped the ball, and the off-guard Titans could not get the ball over in three — the score was 14-13. The Titans took another timeout. 

While the Tigers managed to keep another Titan tip in the air, a failed Tiger block tied the scores 14-14. This guaranteed that the set would now surpass 15 points. 

Onlookers watched intently as the ball was rallied back and forth, each team performing impressive kills and digs. When Dowd spiked the ball, San Marino managed to keep it in the air. However, the Titans were unable to get the ball over the net in the contacts, and the score became 15-14. 

The Tigers were again a single point away from victory. Two saves from Hyun kept the rally going. Chang set the ball to Dowd. Dowd spiked it straight down onto the Titans’ court. The Tigers emerged victorious in the set 16-14, and hence the match 3-2. 

“It was saddening, but it was also really fun,” Hyun said about having played his Senior Night game. “During the game, it wasn’t really stressful, I was just having fun out there. You just gotta have fun, that’s how you play your best.”

The seniors’ ceremonial final kills took place after the game. Each graduating senior spiked the ball over the net to the rest of their varsity teammates, and each senior was applauded and congratulated. 

“I’m going to miss high school, definitely,” Estanislao said. “I’m glad I had this opportunity to play with this team. It’s been really fun, and I have so many good memories.”

The Tigers triumphed over the Temple City Rams 3-1 in their last league matchup of the season. The Temple City win placed the Tigers first in the Rio Hondo League, and thus qualified them for the first round of CIF playoffs. 

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