For the Costa Mesa and Estancia high school boys’ volleyball teams, the second match of the Battle for the Bell series held two entirely different prizes.
A victory for the Mustangs would mean their first sweep of the Eagles since 2015 and move them one step closer to qualifying for the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
For the struggling Eagles, it was about pride.
The Eagles roared back from a two-set deficit and upset the Mustangs 20-25, 13-25, 25-23, 25-16, 15-7 at home Thursday.
Senior opposite hitter Arthur Bishop led the Estancia with nine kills and added three service aces, while senior outside hitter Keenan Lawrence led the team in service aces with seven.
Estancia, which began the night in last place in the Orange Coast League, improved to 1-5 in league play and 3-19 overall. The Eagles will play a league match at first-place Calvary Chapel (12-4, 5-0 in league) on Tuesday.
The Mustangs fell to 8-13 overall and 3-3 in the league. Costa Mesa coach Todd Hanson believes his team now needs to win three out of its next four league matches for a chance to qualify for the playoffs.
Eagles coach Alejandro De Mendoza was breathless following the comeback win.
“We’ve been in situations where we were down 0-2, and it’s not easy fighting back,” he said. “I’m just happy these guys rallied together as a team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my kids that excited to play volleyball and have fun.”
The match began badly for the Eagles as they struggled to avoid unforced errors, but behind a full team effort, Estancia rebounded. By the time the fifth set started, the momentum swing was too much for the Mustangs to overcome.
When Bishop’s final attack glanced off a Costa Mesa block and fell to the floor, the Estancia gym erupted.
“We needed that win,” Eagles sophomore outside hitter Ryan Ray said. “We haven’t won in a while and to come back like that was amazing. It was just pure joy; we were all going crazy. It was just so fun and I can’t believe it happened.”
In addition to Bishop and Lawrence, Ray contributed seven kills and a block.
Senior outside hitter Jason Chiang and opposite Jonathan Barton had strong performances for the Mustangs. Chiang registered 11 kills and four digs, while Barton added 13 kills and three digs.
The Mustangs did celebrate a silver lining in the loss as they took the cumulative set victory in the Battle for the Bell rivalry, five sets to four between Thursday’s match and their March 21 match.
Hanson had mixed emotions after he and his team collected their medals for winning the Bell but losing the match.
“I’m super proud of the boys,” said Hanson, whose third-place team plays at fourth-place Santa Ana (18-9, 2-3) on Tuesday. “I’ve got a lot of guys that play multiple sports, and for most of them, volleyball is an afterthought. I’m proud of how they’ve come along. I’ve got a couple kids out there who have barely played the game before.”
Still, the loss and the setback in their quest for the CIF playoffs didn’t sit well with Hanson.
“We did fundamentally everything we needed to do in the first two [sets],” Hanson said, “and in the third [set], we let the fundamentals go out the window.”