LA CRESCENTA — If all of his starters can stay healthy and start clicking together, Crescenta Valley High Coach John Nelson feels his team is very capable of winning matches down the stretch of Pacific League play to reach the CIF playoffs.
While the Falcons took a step in that direction on Friday, showing some signs against Arcadia in a 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 home league loss, there's little margin for error down the stretch, as they will close out league against the three teams above them in the chase for three automatic playoff berths — Arcadia, Burroughs and Claremont.
"That's just the second match we've gotten to play with all our guys [because of injuries]," Nelson said. "Now we're finally starting to play a little bit closer to what I think we can play."
The Falcons (8-10, 2-3 in league) played well in stretches, getting seven kills and numerous standout plays from Vincent Van Hoek, and were neck and neck with Arcadia (15-5, 3-2) through most of the first game.
But service errors proved to be the main hindrance to the Falcons sustaining any momentum. Crescenta Valley made six service errors in the opening stanza and all of them came directly after winning a sideout. Misfired serves also impeded the Falcons as they tried to mount rallies late in the second and third games to keep Arcadia from closing them out.
"We're working on that," Nelson said. "With the teams we're gonna play, you have to serve tough. If you let them get a good pass, you have no chance, so you have to serve aggressively and that's something we haven't been doing much, but we're working on it."
Crescenta Valley trailed Arcadia, 21-15, late in the third game when Wesley Cormier heated up, notching two kills and winning a joust to bring the Falcons to within 22-19. Ian Poprocki's kill staved off match-point and brought the Falcons to within 24-21.
The Falcons resume their quest for the playoffs against front-runner Burroughs on Tuesday and play Arcadia again on May 5 in the regular-season finale.
"We've got two weeks left and I think it's going to be an exciting two weeks," Nelson said. "We know what we have to do — only three teams are going to make it into the playoffs. We know what we have to do to get there. Every game we play is big now."