If you're a volleyball team hoping to upset the undefeated, top-seeded team in the City Section playoffs, try this stratagem:
Lose to that team in the first match of the season. Declare yourself "intimidated" and not nearly up to the other team's caliber.
Come playoff time, swagger into that team's gym, play a nearly flawless match and overwhelm your former conquerors.
That method worked perfectly for Roosevelt High, which defeated top-seeded Granada Hills, 15-8, 15-5, 15-10, in a City 4-A Division semifinal Tuesday at Granada Hills.
"We pummeled them the last time," said Highlander Mike DiSimone, who had a match-high 16 kills. "They pummeled us this time. They played error-free."
Or so it seemed. The Rough Riders (14-2) made several mistakes at the start of the third game and fell behind, 8-0, but aside from that one stretch, were relentlessly steady and were never seriously challenged by the Highlanders (15-1).
"That (first match) was more nerve-racking, because we saw the way they were hitting," Roosevelt's Giovanni Barajas said. "We were astonished how hard they were hitting, and we all thought, 'They are better than us. They have better, bigger players.' That 15 (DiSimone) is a real intimidator. He hits the ball so hard.
"This time we knew we can't be scared at all, we just had to go all out."
Granada Hills was continually frustrated by the small, mobile Roosevelt attackers, who consistently eluded the taller Highlander blockers.
"They were going around our block," DiSimone said. "Size didn't matter."
Neither did the Highlanders' 8-0 run to open the final game, because the Rough Riders scored 11 of the next 12 points and put the match away on consecutive blocks by Richard Castellano of DiSimone. "They get real emotional sometimes and they're just unstoppable," said Highlander Tim Williamson, who has seen Roosevelt players in club volleyball. "Today was just one of those days."
"I had heard they improved," Granada Hills Coach Tom Harp said. "Now I'm a believer."