Rebels serve their way to win

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Every time Flintridge Prep boys’ volleyball player Reed Bradley stood guard at the net with teammate Dylan Walker serving, Bradley could hear the ball whiz over him toward a wary opponent.

“I can always hear the ball go by after he hits it,” said Bradley, a senior setter who had four aces and 24 assists Tuesday afternoon to spark host Flintridge Prep to a 25-12, 25-9, 25-18 nonleague victory against Milken Community. “I’m sure [the opponent] hears the ball whiz by.”

Walker, a senior outside hitter and the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, did everything but crush the air out of the ball with each powerful serve throughout the 46-minute match.

Walker finished with a match-high seven aces, including four in the first game. The last gave the Rebels (2-1) a commanding 11-2 lead.

Flintridge Prep, which entered the season ranked third in the CIF Southern Section Division V poll behind Viewpoint and Salesian after advancing to the semifinals last season, appeared more relaxed against Milken Community (0-1). The Rebels began their season Feb. 27 with a nonleague home loss to Arrowhead Christian Academy before dispatching neighborhood rival St. Francis on the road Thursday.

“The first couple of matches were a learning experience for us,” said Flintridge Prep Coach Sean Beattie, whose team finished with 15 aces. “We had a high preseason ranking, but we have four starters who never played varsity before.

“It will take a while to get the nerves out. Our passing was off the first two matches, but it got much better [Tuesday]. When our passing is on with the amount of hitters that we have, we are deadly.”

Milken Community found that out from the start.

The Rebels, who took second in the Prep League last season, led throughout the first and second games before rallying from a 5-1 deficit in the third game to complete the sweep.

Flintridge Prep built an 11-1 lead in the second game on a kill by Walker.

The Rebels received six kills from junior middle blocker Gavin Thomson and five from senior middle blocker Peter Denton.

“I think coming into the first game of the season that we were a little better than we are,” Bradley said. “It’s about staying focused and making sure that you keep your form.

“We knew coming in that we needed to be able to pass better. We did a lot of passing drills since.”

Flintridge Prep will next compete in the 15th annual Providence Tournament. The Rebels will battle L.A. Baptist in an opening-round match at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Cathedral High.


 CHARLES RICH covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3228 or charles.rich@latimes.com.

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