There was actually a surprised silence, almost like in some cheesy sports movie, when Village Christian came up to serve, up 13-12 in the final set of the five-set match. The raucous crowd that had been yelling, jeering, insulting the Falcons subsided when the Falcons had conceded a 10-1 lead to start the fifth set and they realized they had an actual shot at winning the match. Crescenta Valley was just as shocked â€” their wide-eyed players watched their lead evaporate point by point and suddenly it was 11-11. They had practically the same opportunity in the fourth set â€” a tie game, 25-25 â€” but Crescenta Valley couldn't put the nail in the coffin, letting that one slip away, letting VC stay in the game for another set.
The serve sank as soon as it crossed the net and with it went the Falcons' (0-1) hopes of winning their first regular game of the 2007-08 volleyball season. The match point wasn't even a point of contention â€” the Falcons looked frazzled, and maybe a little defeated, on the final serve of the game. They lost the final set, 15-12 (a 14-2 run by the Crusaders), and the match 3-2.
As VC (1-0) players started jumping around, celebrating their comeback, CV Coach John Nelson got the team to huddle around their coach. He spoke softly, not angry, not even disappointed, and the team got on the bus with their heads up.
â€œI think we got a little tight,â€ Nelson said. â€œWe were a little nervous, being that there was pressure in our first varsity game [for the year].â€
â€œFor all but one of those players,â€ Nelson continued, â€œit was the first time they've ever played a varsity match. So all of a sudden they're in game five and it's a battle and [Village Christian] seems to be relaxed and going for it.â€
You can see why Nelson isn't upset about the loss, if you watched the game.
Crescenta Valley players were sharp when they were leading. Rio Fischer's serves were crisp and his ace in the fifth game was a reason the team went on a 10-1 run. Craig Lafaine served a few aces and provided a number of blocks for points. Nico Alegeria and Steven Orozco played the net deftly. And the libero, Anthony Shapiro (the guy who wears the different color jersey from the rest of the team), was a leader. He dove for the saves, he served a few aces and even if he didn't know what he was doing, he looked like he did.
As individual pieces and as a team, they worked well ... for nine-tenths of the game.
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Aside from the last frame, the match was rather pedestrian. In the first set, VC took a five-point lead early and never looked back, winning it 25-22. The next frame was a little tighter, though bad serving and good blocking helped CV take it 26-24. An ace by Shapiro sealed the victory in the third set, 25-22, to get CV on top 2-1. And in the fourth set, CV tied it up 25-25, but a couple of deuces and â€œadvantage: Village Christiansâ€ later, the Crusaders tied the match 2-2.
â€œThis wasn't a complete loss,â€ Nelson said. â€œIt was a good cause. Those stats in the game don't lie. [But in these types of games,] you get to see a lot of things about how you are and how you're going to respond. And pre-season is about how to fix things for league.â€
Obviously, the hopes for this year aren't dashed after one bad match. There's almost two-dozen more to go and anything can happen in the playoffs.
â€œI was actually pretty happy with what I saw, you know?â€ Nelson said. â€œWe have a few things to fix that we're going to fix â€” it's not going to be too hard, we're going to fix them. And I'll think we'll be OK. I don't like blowing a 10-1 lead.
â€œWe want to win this year. This is a good team. Village is a good team. They got on a roll.
â€œWe want to play at the highest level we can. That's our goal for the season. We figure if we play to the highest level, we'll be right in the hunt for the league title.â€
Strangely enough, you get the feeling he knows what he's talking about.
The Falcons hoped to regain their swagger when they took on Alemany yesterday. The game was played late, but scores will be reported in next week's paper.