Story by Clementine Evans
Photos by Rachel (Shin-Hye) Choi
The SPHS boys’ volleyball team trampled the Kennedy High School Fighting Irish in their first round of CIF playoffs on Thursday, April 27. Winning in four sets, the Tigers displayed potential to reach the CIF championships in May.
With Kennedy in control of the first serve, the Tigers prepared to defend their home court. SPHS’s defensive line prevented Kennedy from gaining the upper hand and attacks from senior outside hitter Declan Swift helped the team gain points at the beginning of the set. However, the Fighting Irish held on, blocking Swift’s hits at the net and digging up the Tigers’ balls. Throughout the tense, back-and-forth set, SPHS and Kennedy kept hitting and blocking, keeping the ball in play throughout the set. Senior setter Aaron Quan quickly regained control of the court and his connection with the hitters slowly broke down Kennedy’s defense. Ultimately, South Pasadena pulled away, winning a competitive set by a final score of 25-20.
The Tigers carried this momentum with them into the second set with Quan at the serving line. Immediately, SPHS capitalized on Kennedy’s disoriented plays. Senior middle blocker Andrew Carney commanded the court, blocking the vast majority of hits sent across the net and hitting into the far corners of the court. This allowed the back row defensive specialists to set-up the offense, hustling after free balls and off-block plays. Junior defensive specialist Ryan Estanislao crippled the Fighting Irish’s attempts at gaining the lead and the Tigers soared forward, winning their second set by the same score, 25-20.
Despite defeating Kennedy in the previous two sets, SPHS faltered in the third set. Eventually, the Tigers snapped into action and left the Fighting Irish in the dust. Senior defensive specialist Nathan Chiu broke the serving struggle and went on a serving streak. Sophomore middle blocker James Dowd used his height to both block Kennedy’s incoming hits and to slam down any overpasses at the net. With a comfortable lead, sophomore outside hitter Martin Walsh entered the court, shifting the team’s dynamic. His powerful hits and well-placed tips kept the Fighting Irish on their toes. Kennedy was able to pull away,winning the third set 26-24 after a tense back-and-forth rally in the set’s final moments.
The fourth and final set, with the Tiger’s determined to end the game, started with a serve from junior libero Kai Munoz. The Fighting Irish went on a streak of attacks throughout the set, weakening the Tigers’ defenses and breaking down their serve-receive. SPHS abruptly called a timeout, losing 7-0, in hopes to regain control of the situation. The team placed senior right side hitter Nick Chabot on the serving line and the Tiger’s quickly chipped away at the Fighting Irish’s lead to orchestrate a comeback— eventually taking the lead 8-7. South Pasadena continued pushing, with senior outside hitter Aidan Hilger crushing the ball down and the team’s prevailing morale crippling Kennedy’s libero. The set wrapped up with an impressive kill from Hilger and a final score of 25 to 21.
The Tigers will play in the second round of CIF playoffs on Saturday April, 29 against Fairmount High School.