A big advantage in depth turned into just enough of an edge for the private school boys’ volleyball upperclassmen all-stars in a 25-21, 17-25, 25-23 victory over the public school side in the sixth annual San Gabriel Valley All-Star Game at Providence High on Sunday afternoon.
While the public school all-stars only had two no-shows out of 15 players, the private school squad that initially numbered 16 consisted of seven plus one carryover from the earlier underclassmen contest.
Despite those differences, the public schools held on for a victory in a contest that featured players from Burbank High, Burroughs, Crescenta Valley, La Cañada and St. Francis.
Burbank setter Jonathan Tapan was named the public school most valuable player, while Notre Dame’s Chris Hall was selected as the private school MVP.
“I was like ‘really’ when I won the award, so that’s cool,” said Tapan, who finished with three kills and 12 assists. “This the first time I’ve received a high-level award at a prestigious event. It feels great.”
Burroughs’ Jarrett Malone of the public side led all players with 10 kills, while Crescenta Valley’s Anders Johnson tallied seven kills, Burbank’s AJ Rivera added five kills and two aces, South Pasadena’s Gunter Vaden totaled four kills and two blocks and La Cañada’s Coleman Cornell contributed three kills for the public side.
Notre Dame’s Brendon Dunn paced the private side with nine kills, while St. Francis’ Sean Stephens added six kills. Golden Knights teammate Joey Thompson, a player from the underclassmen game, was asked to participate in the upperclassmen match and added four kills and one block.Public school libero Skyler Bercini of Burroughs finished with seven digs.
Each side took advantage of momentum late.
The public side pulled to within 22-20 on a kill from Hall in the deciding third set when Johnson answered with a thunderous spike to put the visiting public side ahead by three.
Three possessions later, Tapan put the public team up, 24-21, on a timely dump.
Though the private side staved off eliminated twice, the public side held on for a 25-23 victory on an attacking error.
“This was super fun and I think I liked best just being a part of this team,” Johnson said. “The guys like to have a good time. As you can see, both teams made plenty of mistakes, but as long as we had fun, that was cool. Plus, we did win.”
The third-set victory for the public side came after it dropped the second game, 25-17.
In that set, the private side tallied 11 of the first 16 points fueled by four kills from Dunn.
A kill from Cornell brought the public side within 19-16, but the private squad closed out the set with a 6-1 spurt capped on a clinching kill from Stephens.
“This was a lot of fun because you’re coming together with people you don’t know,” Stephens said. “You’re just trying to figure things out and maybe that helped our team because we were pretty small, so everyone got extra playing time.”
A back-and-forth first set saw the public side’s lead narrowed to 22-19 on an error. Johnson responded with a pair of kills as the public side took a 24-20 lead.
While Hall countered with a kill, the public team closed out a 25-21 victory with a kill from Tapan.
Despite having little time to practice with his team, public schools coach Joel Brinton of Burroughs said that prior knowledge paid dividends.
“This is my third time coaching, so the past experiences have been very helpful,” Brinton said. “This was a really good group that wasn’t concerned about playing time, but just about having fun and winning when it got late.”