LA CAÑADA — AJ Nicassio broke down the numbers leading up to the Flintridge Prep boys’ volleyball team taking on Providence on Tuesday for the first time in a Prep League match.
Nicassio has built an impressive career during his three-plus seasons as a player at Flintridge Prep, putting him on the brink of reaching a milestone moment. Nicassio needed nine kills to reach 1,000.
Nicassio accomplished the feat, getting the huge marker in the second set, as well as helping host Flintridge Prep earn a 25-14, 25-11, 25-22 victory.
Nicassio, a reigning All-Area selection and two-time league most valuable player, had 991 kills when play began Tuesday. Nicassio’s watershed moment gave Flintridge Prep a 20-9 lead in the second set.
“I knew coming in what I needed to get and it’s definitely a great accomplishment,” said Nicassio, an outside hitter who registered 13 kills and four aces. “It means I’ve had a lot of good passing from my setters and liberos to help me get here and they deserve a lot of credit.
“It’s just awesome to be able to do it at home and celebrate with my teammates and friends.”
Nicassio, who recorded 326 kills last season, had plenty of support Tuesday to propel Flintridge Prep (12-1, 2-0 in league).
Flintridge Prep, which has won six straight league championships and is ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division IV, got 34 assists from Jake Woo, 11 kills from Nathan Powell and eight from Luke Stiles to turn back Providence (8-3, 1-1) in the first of two head-to-head meetings.
Flintridge Prep took a 14-9 lead in the first set on a kill by Stiles. A kill by Nicassio later in the set made it 22-13.
The Rebels stayed in control throughout the second set, taking a 19-8 lead on a Nicassio kill.
Moments later, Nicassio accomplished his milestone, leading to the match being delayed for a moment while Nicassio celebrated with his teammates and the crowd.
“He’s just got that joy for the game and he’s genuinely excited about the sport itself,” Flintridge Prep coach Sean Beattie said. “He does so many things well and he’s become a leader.
“I’m very happy with the way we played offensively today and Providence has a very good team.”
Providence, which joined the Prep League this season after previously competing in the Liberty League, showed some flashes of promise throughout Tuesday’s match under first-year coach Nigel Dookhoo.
The Pioneers, who won the Liberty League crown last season, played evenly throughout most of the first set and had the upper hand for most of the third before succumbing to the experienced Rebels.
Providence played well in the third set, taking a 12-8 lead on a kill by Carl Menke (11 kills). A kill by Michael Swart, who had 13 kills, gave the Pioneers a 19-18 lead later in the third set. However, Flintridge Prep finished on a 7-3 run to seal the victory.
“Our guys have come a long way since the beginning of the season,” Dookhoo said. “They are maturing a lot more and it’s led to them playing some good volleyball of late.
“We’re knew to the league and we’re trying to set our pace and we will get that done. This was a building block today. Flintridge Prep has such a good program and their coach does a good job with them.”