ARCADIA — Crescenta Valley High girls' volleyball Coach Steve Umemoto can clearly comprehend why Arcadia is undefeated in the Pacific League.
Leading up to Tuesday's league road match against Arcadia, Umemoto heard the scuttlebutt about Crescenta Valley's main rival and its ability to play sound defense.
"Arcadia is undefeated for a reason and that's because they dig a lot of balls and play excellent defense," said Umemoto after Crescenta Valley suffered a 25-22, 25-23, 25-9 loss against Arcadia. "We were able to stick with them in the first two games and they are the best team in the league.
"We have to get better at what we are trying to do."
The Falcons (5-4 and 4-3 in league) will get another shot at the Apaches (16-2, 7-0) on Nov. 4 at Crescenta Valley. Until that meeting with Arcadia, ranked No. 4 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division 2-A poll behind Troy, Bonita and Camarillo, the Falcons will look to have already clinched a playoff berth.
Despite the loss, the Falcons found plenty of positives in Tuesday's match.
For example, Crescenta Valley forced Arcadia into 12 unforced errors in the first game.
In addition, the Falcons fared well at blocking some kill attempts from Arcadia's powerful 1-2 punch of outside hitter Taylor DeGraff and middle blocker Ashleigh DeBarge.
Crescenta Valley stayed close with Arcadia throughout the first two games. In the opening game, Crescenta Valley grabbed a 17-15 lead on a kill by outside hitter Kira Guarino. After Arcadia took a 23-20 lead, Crescenta Valley closed to within 23-22 on a kill by outside hitter Leah Gagliardi, but a kill by Apaches middle blocker Brittney Lee and a block by Debarge dashed Crescenta Valley's hopes.
The second game nearly proved to be a carbon copy of the first. Middle blocker Giulia Daneshgarian recorded a kill to knot the game at 23. The teams then swapped the next two points before DeGraff sealed the game with a kill.
"Those first two games could have gone either way," said Umemoto, who received 17 kills from Gagliardi, eight kills and 13 digs from Guarino and 17 assists from setter Payton Wheeler. "We fought hard those first two games and that's the best we've played all season.
"We didn't let up in those first two games."
The close losses seemed to deflate the Falcons, who never led in the final game. The Apaches jumped out to an 11-4 lead on an ace by DeGraaf and never looked back. The Apaches registered four aces in the last game, including two in a row from Lee that extended their lead to 20-8.
Veteran Arcadia Coach Chuck Freberg said the Apaches showed some signs of sloppiness.
"We are working real hard at not giving away points and we had 12 unforced errors [in the first game]," Freberg said. "The second game was more of the same, unfortunately, and it wasn't until the third game that we stopped giving away points.
"I think we just wore [Crescenta Valley] out in the third game."
DeGraaf paced the Apaches with a match-best 18 kills and DeBarge chipped in with seven.