Rebels can't match up with rival Panthers

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — With its starting setter in the heart of New York City and starting outside hitter recovering from a knee injury, the Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball team never looked in sync when it took to the court to meet rival Pasadena Poly on Friday afternoon.

The Rebels were without setter Kieren Mulroy, who was on a college visit to New York University, and outside hitter Kory Hamane, who suffered what might be a season-ending knee injury while recently playing basketball.

Flintridge Prep had a difficult time filling the big voids, as it suffered a 25-23, 25-20, 25-18 Prep League home loss.

It hasn't been a smooth season for the Rebels, who dropped to 6-11, 0-2 in league. Flintridge Prep, ranked No. 6 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division V poll, began its season missing five players who helped the school's boys' basketball team win the program's first CIF championship before competing in the state playoffs.

The Rebels have also been forced to make major lineup changes while competing against top league teams such as Chadwick and Pasadena Poly in the first week of league competition. The Rebels opened league Tuesday with a loss against Chadwick, the top team in the division.

"We have a lot of kids who are new to the spotlight," Flintridge Prep Coach Sean Beattie said. "The basketball kids are still not [in volleyball shape] and it's going to take some time.

"We lost our starting setter and our outside hitter gets hurt. We'd love to have [Mulroy] starting in a game like this."

Mulroy was replaced by Mike Lii, who finished with 15 assists.

Pasadena Poly (8-4, 2-0) showed why its No. 4 in the division. The Panthers played crisp defense and turned to outside hitter Michael Saeta, who finished with a match-best 15 kills.

Pasadena Poly Coach Mike Talamantes said the Panthers needed to accomplish two objectives in their quest to turn aside the Rebels in the first of two head-to-head meetings.

"We disrupted their pass and we were able to slow down their middle blockers," Talamantes said. "With Michael, we will go as far as he takes us.

"We have a pretty young team, but he's got experience."

Another area of difficulty for the Rebels came with their inconsistent serving. Flintridge Prep committed eight serving errors, which at times derailed them from sustaining momentum against the Panthers.

In the third game, a kill by Flintridge Prep middle blocker Kenyatta Smith brought the Rebels to within 17-14. A serving error by the Rebels gave the Panthers an 18-14 advantage and the Panthers used a 6-4 run to complete the sweep.

A serving error by Pasadena Poly knotted the match at 23 in the second game. Unfazed by the miscue, the Panthers used a hitting error by the Rebels and a block by Saeta to put them on the doorstep to victory.

Smith registered a block in the first game to cut Pasadena Poly's lead to 16-15, but the Panthers went on a 9-5 run to clinch the game.

Smith finished with six kills and five blocks for the Rebels, who got five blocks from opposite hitter Jared Norsworthy.

"[Pasadena Poly] made the digs and we didn't," Beattie said. "I told the team before the match that these two teams are pretty evenly matched and who makes the most mistakes will lose.

"Serving has been a trouble spot for us. We just have to practice. Games like this make you better. You want to tighten up on mental errors."

The teams will meet again at 4:30 p.m. April 26 at Pasadena Poly.

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