Falcons geared up for Gold

LA CRESCENTA — Having won its first two pool-play matches on Friday night, the Crescenta Valley High boys' volleyball team was already guaranteed a berth in today's Gold Division playoffs of the 2011 Crescenta Valley Varsity Tournament.

Still, the Falcons hoped to make their path today a little less arduous at the start by beating Oaks Christian in their final pool play match Friday to win their pool and avoid a first-round playoff match with Pacific League-rival and strong tournament favorite Burroughs.

Both games of Crescenta Valley's 26-24, 26-24 loss to Oaks Christian could have easily swung either way, but in the end, they set the Falcons on a collision course with the Indians, winners of their own pool, who they will meet when the playoffs begin at 10 a.m.

"We could have avoided them if we won our pool, but that's all right, it doesn't matter," said Crescenta Valley Coach John Nelson, whose team was swept by Burroughs, the No. 1-ranked squad in CIF Southern Section Division III, when the teams last played in a league match on Tuesday. "We're excited. It will be fun to play somebody good and we're playing at a pretty good level."

After opening with pool-play wins over La Cañada, 25-20, 25-13, and Montebello, 25-23, 25-21, the Falcons went toe to toe down to the end with Oaks Christian, which is ranked sixth in Division II.

In the first game, the lead flip-flopped constantly and no team ever led by more than two points. Ian Poprocki notched a timely kill for the Falcons to fend of Oaks Christian's first game point and tie the game at 24, but the Lions finished off the stanza on a kill from Carter Franciskovic and a block by Jennings Franciskovic.

Crescenta Valley rallied to get back in the second game after falling behind, 16-10, and went on a late 4-0 run, sparked by a Wesley Cormier kill to tie the game at 23.

"We just tried to play our best and we pretty much did," said Poprocki, who finished with seven kills against Oaks Christian. "We just had a few mistakes.

"We just had to pull through and do what we do. …We're trying to knock out Burroughs tomorrow morning, we're excited to do that."

Cormier finished with five kills and the Falcons got five from Logan Shapiro.

"We're still improving by leaps and bounds," Nelson said. "That may be the best we've played to date, but hopefully, we're going to play better than that tomorrow."

St. Francis also played three pool-play matches on Friday, but struggled to compete with only six players available and lost to Paraclete, 28-26, 25-14, San Marino, 25-20, 26-24, and Burroughs, 25-10, 25-16. The Golden Knights will open play in the Silver Division playoffs today at 9 a.m.

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