LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — On the brink of the program’s second trip to the semifinals in three years, the Flintridge Prep boys’ volleyball team was challenged early and nearly taken the distance by Arrowhead Christian Academy in Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinal match at Prep.
The Rebels lost their first game of these CIF playoffs, but otherwise rose to answer every salvo from the Eagles in a 25-23, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19 win.
“What they did is come back on two different occasions against a very good team, a good blocking team, a good hitting team that passed the ball well,” Rebels Coach Sean Beattie said of his team. “That should give you all the confidence in the world. It says even when you’re down against a solid team, we have the ability to come back and beat someone like that.”
Prep (20-5), which lost in the Division V quarterfinals last season, will now play at No. 1 St. Margaret’s on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“The farthest this team’s ever gone is the semis, we’ve reached our mark and we’re trying to break it,” said senior outside hitter Gavin Thomson, who led the Rebels with 21 kills on Friday. “We’re all confident and we all think we can do it, we’ve just gotta keep playing strong.”
The Eagles (14-2) provided the toughest test the Rebels have endured so far in the playoffs, beginning with the first game, when Arrowhead Christian made its first big run to go up, 13-6.
Arrowhead Christian stayed ahead, 17-10, on a kill by William Quanstrom and went up, 20-14, as the Rebels struggled to adjust to the Eagle’s frenetic defense.
“There was I think three one-hand stab digs, we hit the ball off their blocks and [Eagles] guys are running, diving and getting it up,” Beattie said. “It can be extremely discouraging, and the impressive part was we didn’t let it bother us as much as in years past.”
Prep regrouped impressively to catch the Eagles at 20 on a roof by Kenyatta Smith, who finished with 11 kills and six blocks.
The Rebels went up, 24-21, on an attack by Thomson and saw Arrowhead Christian fight off two match-points before sealing the win.
In the second game, Prep led by five most of the way to go up, 2-0, in games, but the Rebels weren’t home free just yet.
Much as they did in the first game, the Eagles got some separation on the scoreboard midway through the third game, but this time proved to be more difficult to catch.
Thomson had two kills and an ace down the stretch, but 21-20, on a series of great digs by the Rebels, was as close as Prep could come to tying the game.
“We stuck to what we normally do, they got their digs, they got their hits, but we didn’t change too much,” Beattie said. “That’s the key against a really good team, you can’t change what you’re doing just because one thing’s not working, because you will get tired. We ended up just wearing them down.”
Arrowhead had a slight lead through the first half of the fourth game, but Prep squared things up at 14 and rediscovered some momentum. JT Tredwell had back-to-back aces, followed by a Thomson kill that put Prep up, 21-18.
Smith had one last big block to put Prep two points from clinching the win. Edmund Chow finished with 22 digs for Prep.
“I’m exhausted,” Thomson said. “We knew it was going to be hard, we knew they were big — they were a lot like us.
“I wish I could say it was all us, but they gave us some missed serves. They started to make some errors, we knew it and we had to grab the game where it was.”