The final game of the season for the Palisades High boys volleyball team Friday night was planned as a black-tie affair. No sweat. The Dolphin players had the school's prom to attend after the match and few observers thought they'd even have to muss their hair.
The Dolphins were to dispose of Chatsworth in the City 4-A final as easily as they had handled most of the rest of Southern California's high school volleyball teams this season.
Instead, Chatsworth proved itself a formidable partner, orchestrating the tempo in the first two games of the City 4-A final before finally bowing to Palisades, 15-10, 15-13, 15-4.
Granada Hills also completed an undefeated season Friday by sweeping Belmont for its first 3-A championship, 15-9, 15-12, 15-8.
Palisades' three-game sweep was deceiving.
"We were more interested in the prom," said Palisades senior Kent Steffes. "We were lucky to play as well as we did.
"They played incredibly well. One of their top players, Jeff Campbell, had a broken leg (actually torn ligaments in the left ankle) and as soon as I got here and saw that, I said we're going to win 15-0 in three straight."
Neil Coffman played especially well for Chatsworth (14-3) at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse. The Chancellors were in every game except the last, were tied at one point in the second game, 13-13. At other times, they showed the ability to come back and play close a team that was considered to be far and away the best team in the City.
Palisades, which won its first title since 1982, ended the season 34-0-1, with a 83-2 mark in games. But now, more than ever, they're all dressed up with no place to go. There are no state playoffs.
Granada Hills, which lost only three games in its 17-0 season, overcame minor bouts of inconsistency with dominating play at the net by 6-5 Derek Hanson and 6-2 John Lim. Eachg had nine kills. Brian Friedland had 11 kills, Nicky Kim had nine, Joe Komsky had eight and Brian Saltzman had seven.
"We always play kind of streaky," Coach Tom Harp said. "The first game, we came out and played real well and in the second we must have had 10 spiking errors to give them points. But, as usual, we came back.
"Derek Hanson and John Lim really played well. When we get the middle going, nobody can stop us. That's been our edge all season. Once we take over the middle, it really opens up the sides."
Belmont Coach Ron Melin, whose team finished 12-3, agreed that Granada Hills' size advantage was the key--maybe even before the match started.
"We were a little nervous," he said. "We were a little intimidated by their players in the middle. We knew what was coming, but were still intimidated."