By Jung Su Park
Photos by Matt Scholtz
Strong play from juniors Greg and Max Luck helped the boys’ volleyball team notch an exciting 3-2 victory over the La Cañada Spartans today at home. The Tigers managed to rally past the Spartans despite the absence of star player senior Richard Yu, who is out due to academic probation. South Pas now stands 20-1-1 overall and 5-0 in league.
The Tigers opened up the game with lackluster effort on both offense and defense. South Pas’ lack of coordination between hitters and setters led to miscommunication on multiple plays. La Cañada’s points came mostly from the Tigers’ hitting errors. The Tigers could not defend the home court in the first set, losing 20-25.
After dropping the opening set and allowing the visiting team to establish momentum, the Tigers started the second set with a rejuvenated game plan. South Pas seized the pressure of playing down one set at home by responding with a quick 7-3 lead. Greg and Max Luck provided quality contributions on offense to overwhelm the Spartan defense. Sophomore Gunther Vaden stepped up from his usual role, blocking and catching the Spartans off with quick kills to put points on the scoreboard for the Tigers. South Pas was able to cruise by La Cañada as the boys combined forces to bounce back from losing grip on the opening set with a 25-14 second set victory, tying the match at 1-1.
The boys were in high spirits heading into the third set from the momentum earned after completely shutting down the Spartans in the second period. La Cañada would not disappear easily, however, as the visiting team established a 16-14 edge midway through the set. South Pas closed the gap and the game flow remained tight all the way until final minutes of the third set, when the score was tied at 20-20. Senior Aydin Pasebani made a crucial save which led to a clutch kill from junior Matthew Ng’s to give the Tigers an advantage down the stretch. Both teams went head to head to keep the match at 23-23, but two La Cañada mental errors handed the Tigers the 25-23 victory to build a 2-1 set lead.
South Pasadena was able to make another significant run in the beginning of the set, scoring five points from the Lucks’ intense hits while allowing two. Such a strong start to the fourth period forced La Canada’s coach to call a timeout. The Tigers seemed to give in to the La Cañada’s new game plan constructed from the break as the home team couldn’t find its way to maintain the lead. Although juniors Alex Nakagawa and Scott Kawakami displayed stunning performances on defense by digging many of La Cañada’s kill attempts and serving well to reduce mistakes, the Tiger hitters couldn’t find the offensive firepower that they had in the previous set. The Spartan middles formed an impassable wall of blocking to counter each South Pas hit attempt and would eventually defeat the Tigers 19-25. The two teams equaled in set victories 2-2 heading into the fifth and final set.
The Tigers were determined to defend their home court and stay undefeated in league. Vaden completed a clean kill set up by an accurate set from freshman Cole Schroeder to mark first blood in crunch time. South Pas forced an early La Cañada timeout by scoring three straight on the set off of Spartan errors. South Pas never looked back after the break, completing a 12-6 run to keep the winning streak alive with a final set score of 15-7.
The Tiger squad will face the San Marino Titans on Thursday, April 23 at the Titan gym with hopes of continuing its clean record in league.
G. Luck: 20 kills
M. Luck: 19 kills
G. Vaden: 5 blocks