Photos by Tucker Judkins
Hype and energy swept the South Pasadena Middle School gym after the boys’ volleyball team dropped the Laguna Beach Breakers in four sets. The number 11 seeded Tigers faltered in the first set after the number 2 seed Breakers won with a score of 25-19. South Pas returned to rout Laguna Beach in the following three sets with scores of 25-19, 27-25 and 25-21.
South Pas began the game with an obvious height disadvantage against Laguna Beach. The Breakers took a 13-9 lead in the first set thanks to strong blocking from their front line. The Tiger offense, led by senior Greg Luck managed to keep South Pas in the game after taking a 3-0 run for a score of 16-12. Laguna Beach would counter with an ace to extend to a lead of 18-12 with the Tigers in trouble. Junior Gunther Vaden supplied an ace of his own to bring South Pas back into the set at 23-18, but it wouldn’t be enough for the Tigers. The Breakers closed out the set with a score of 25-19 for a 1-0 lead in the series.
The second set began similar to the first. Laguna Beach kept the South Pas offense flustered with repeated blocks over the Tigers. A monster block by Vaden quickly rallied the home crowd to rejuvenate South Pas. A few possessions later, Vaden would come up with a strategic ace to tie the game at 9-9. Luck would follow Vaden’s example to help tie the score again at 11-11 with a block, followed by a kill for another tie at 12-12. South Pas would take its first lead of the game off of a perfectly timed kill from junior Matt Scholtz for a score of 14-13. Errors by Laguna Beach would allow the Tigers to jump to an 18-14 lead with South Pas in control of the momentum on the court. This would pave the way for Vaden to lay down a monster block on the Breakers, forcing a timeout on the visiting team. Laguna Beach wouldn’t be able to counter back on the scoreboard and faltered against the Tigers for a score of 25-19 and a 1-1 tie in the matchup.
Sophomore Cole Schroeder kicked off the third set with an ace to electrify the home team. Scholtz tallied up a kill to increase the score to 5-2 for South Pas. Laguna Beach fired back to take the lead at 9-8. From here, both teams stayed neck-and-neck, with points going back and forth on the scoreboard. Junior Lucas Fox chalked up a kill to give the Tigers a 12-10 lead, which would be quickly erased by the Breakers with a 5-0 run for a score of 15-12. At 17-15, the Tigers were desperate to come back in the game. This would come in the form of two back-to-back spikes from Luck to tie the score at 20-20. The Breakers once again took the lead at 23-21 with a chance to close off the set. Senior Alex Nakagawa showcased physical intensity and fired up the home crowd; the momentum swung in the Tigers’ favor as Nakagawa consistently countered Laguna Beach’s kill attempts with brilliant saves marked by physical dives. His spark helped the Tigers tie the score at 24-24. Crucial errors by Laguna Beach would cost the Breakers the advantage in the set, as the Tigers bounced back from a late deficit to clinch the third set by a final score of 27-25.
Riding off of a 2-1 lead in the series, South Pasadena jumped to a decisive 6-1 lead over Laguna Beach. A kill from Scholtz helped maintain the Tigers dominance in the set with a 8-4 score. South Pas would hold the Breakers to a five point deficit throughout the match at 12-7, 16-11, and at 17-12. Laguna Beach refused to back down and retaliated with an 8-3 run to set the score to 22-21 with the Tigers barely holding the lead. A combined effort from Luck and Scholtz pushed South Pas to leave the Breakers scoreless for the rest of the set and a final score of 25-21.
“It is an amazing feeling to win and a big part of it is because of the home crowd that came out,” senior Matthew Ng said. “Our team played all out and ended up in a well deserved win.”
South Pas will face off against the number three seeded Burroughs Indians at home on Wednesday, May 18 in the CIF semifinals.