Spartans turn aside Rebels

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — For the first couple of weeks of the season, the Flintridge Prep and La Cañada High boys' volleyball teams were noticeably shorthanded.

Each squad was forced to wait until their school's boys' basketball teams completed their CIF championship playoff runs and the state playoffs. The Rebels and Spartans were without five and two players, respectively, during that stretch.

Flintridge Prep and La Cañada took to the court with full teams on Wednesday afternoon and host La Cañada came away with a 23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 10-25, 16-14 nonleague victory.

La Cañada (6-5) received a team-high 14 kills from Matt Faber, who competed in his first match after the Spartans' basketball team was eliminated from the state playoffs Saturday. Faber showed no signs of rust and picked up some big kills for the Spartans, who met the Rebels (6-10) for the first time since 2004 and also had basketball player Sean Mintie back in the mix.

"You can see a big difference with Matt and Sean because they bring height," La Cañada Coach David Woo said. "We held serve without them here for the first [10] matches.

"This match can prepare us for league, though we still have a way to go. The fifth game was a see-saw one and [Flintridge Prep] missed two key serves toward the end. Had they not, it might have been different."

Flintridge Prep recently saw the return of Kenyatta Smith, Jared Norsworthy, Sam Honch, Kory Hamane and Jordan Whaley and have also shown some signs of improvement after getting off to a rough start.

Smith finished with a match-high 17 kills and six blocks and Norsworthy contributed nine kills and five blocks for the Rebels, who appeared to have the momentum entering the final game after easily winning the fourth.

However, the Spartans regrouped by rallying from an 8-6 deficit in the finale to topple the Rebels. Flintridge Prep finished with three service errors and had trouble mounting an attack with their subpar passing.

"It was definitely a good match and both teams played well," said Flintridge Prep Coach Sean Beattie, who got 42 assists from Kieren Mulroy and whose team is ranked No. 6 in Division V. "Our passing wasn't on and that's unacceptable.

"With our passing the way it was, [La Cañada] knew where the ball was going to be set and that took our two best hitters in Kenyatta and Jared out of the game. When our passing is on, we are probably one of the top offensive teams out there. We made some mental mistakes in that fifth game. Three times we had free balls and then made horrible passes. If you can't capitalize, then there's an issue."

Faber started off strong, picking up four kills in the first game to help set the tone for La Cañada. Smith did the same for the Rebels in the second game, coming through with four kills and one ace.

Mike Lii had four aces in a row to give Flintridge Prep a 10-5 lead in the third game. Another ace by Lii helped give the Rebels a 21-19 lead, but the Spartans closed out on a 6-1 run to take a 2-1 lead.

"We are a work in progress right now and we have to get ready [for Prep League]," Beattie said. "We have spring break next week and we just have to be able to regroup."

Woo said the Spartans, who got 13 kills from Kevin Suh, are in a similar position with Rio Hondo League play soon to begin.

"We might see some similar-type matches like this in league," Woo said. "We will not see a player like Kenyatta in our league who can jump out of the sky like he does."

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