LA CRESCENTA ? James Jimenez had heard of Mike Gaudino.
The Providence High boys' volleyball coach heard about Gaudino's prowess, his leaping ability and his talents around the net.
On Saturday, Jimenez got to see for himself just how good the La Cañada High senior is.
Gaudino had 18 kills to lead La Cañada to a 25-18, 27-25 pool-play victory against the Pioneers in the fifth annual Falcon Tournament at Crescenta Valley High.
"He's an incredible player," Jimenez said. "I've heard everything about him and he's much better in person. He's everything people say he is."
Providence, a CIF Southern Section Division V program, almost took the Spartans, a Division IV school, to a third game. But Gaudino, who has committed to play at Cal State Northridge, didn't let it happen.
With the Pioneers leading, 25-24, Gaudino, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, registered two consecutive kills to give the Spartans the lead. A Pioneer unforced error ended the match, keeping La Cañada undefeated in the pool and sending Providence to a 1-2 record in the bracket.
"Gaudino just made the plays at the end," Jimenez said.
The Pioneers ? who lost to Los Altos and defeated Alhambra in pool-play matches ? went on to the Silver Division playoff bracket of the tournament. The top eight teams played in the Gold Division and the other 11 went to the Silver Division.
They lost to St. Francis, a Division I school, 25-16, 18-25, 15-12 in their first playoff match.
"We're the only D-V school here," Providence outside hitter Alex Knopper said. "We came in with no expectations, except to get better. We found out we could hang out these teams. We almost beat a D-I team.
"This is the best we've played in a month. It was a good day for us."
Added Jimenez: "This [tournament] was all about us getting ready for the playoffs."