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Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball sweeps Providence to hold on to first place

BURBANK — After the Providence High boys’ volleyball team lost the first game to Flintridge Prep in a Prep League match, the Pioneers bounced back in the second set and tested the Rebels.

The second-place Pioneers sought to topple the league-leading Rebels to stir up the league standings, and with a five-point lead, Providence was close to tying the match at one set apiece.

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But Flintridge Prep rallied back to force 10 ties and eventually won the second game that paved the way in a 25-12, 26-24, 25-17 sweep at Providence on Wednesday.

The victory gave the Rebels (16-1, 5-0 in league) the season series sweep over the Pioneers, and with three Prep League matches remaining, Flintridge Prep and coach Sean Beattie will look to clinch a seventh consecutive league title.

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Providence (17-4, 4-2) kept it close early in the opening set before Flintridge Prep took a 11-7 lead. The Rebels took advantage of strong serving with eight aces in the opener.

A second service ace from Rebels libero Kristofer Chang set up a 22-10 lead, before three consecutive aces from Rebels opposite hitter Luke Stiles closed out the set.

The momentum shifted in the second game, as the Rebels committed eight errors to help the Pioneers establish a 13-8 lead.

“They picked up their play quite a bit,” Beattie said. “We were able to stay calm and refocus. I called a timeout late and let them know that I thought they should be playing a little bit better.

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“I said it in a different way, but basically it was the tone that came out and I thought the guys were able to calm themselves and finish out the game. They started the third game the way that I thought we should’ve played the whole game.”

Flintridge Prep came out of the timeout and scored five unanswered points to tie it at 13. The teams went back-and-forth before the Pioneers took a 19-17 lead off of a block from Michael Zwart.

“We were playing with a little more confidence and it’s emotional,” Providence first-year coach Nigel Dookhoo said. “They want to win, they want to play well and it’s one of those things where if they put their minds to it, they can do it.

“Not taking anything away from Flintridge Prep, but they’re a better team and I think they beat us and they beat us handily. We just didn’t deal with it very well.”

The Rebels knotted the score at 19 and forced five more ties before the two were deadlocked at 24. Back-to-back kills from Rebels middle Cole Barnard sealed the second set and gave Flintridge Prep a 2-0 advantage.

“You get kind of heated once you’re down that much,” Barnard said. “You just have to bring yourself back. I think our coach really helped us. He’s really good and was really amped up, so he got us back into the game.”

The Rebels found their groove in the third game to create a 15-5 lead off of a flurry of kills from captain AJ Nicassio and opposite Nathan Powell.

“I think we allowed ourselves to think ahead too far,” Beattie said. “That’s what really happened and we made a lot of service errors in the second game and it couldn’t have been because we were so relaxed.

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“Errors are always going to kill you in games like that so I was glad that we were able to take a deep breath and come out on top.”

Nicassio finished with 14 kills and two aces, while Powell added 11 kills. Stiles collected five kills and five aces for the Rebels.

Providence middle blocker Carl Menke led the Pioneers with six kills and Zwart added four.

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