LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — After having their backs pushed against the wall in their playoff opener on Tuesday, the members of the Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball team made sure to get out in front of their opponent quickly on Thursday night.
The Rebels won the first game and took control of the match by winning the pivotal third game en route to a 25-20, 19-25, 25-14, 25-16 home win over Firebaugh in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.
"Our practices were really focused yesterday, so we just made sure as long as our passing was OK, we could pretty much do what we want," said Prep senior hitter Jared Norsworthy, who shared the team lead for kills (12) with senior middle Kenyatta Smith and also recorded four blocks.
Prep's season nearly came to an end Tuesday when Laguna Blanca won the first two games of Tuesday's opener, forcing the Rebels to rally for a five-game win. Now Prep finds itself heading into a quarterfinal matchup, likely with top seed Vistamar, at home on Saturday at a time to be determined.
Behind a combination of three kills form Smith and a slew of unforced errors by Firebaugh (17-3), the Rebels (12-13) jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the opening game that grew as high as nine and never sank below four.
But Firebaugh cleaned up its game and caught some momentum with a second-game win despite a furious Rebels rally that tied the score at 19 before Firebaugh shocked the Rebels with a 6-0 run to close it out.
"I think we relaxed a little bit," Norsworthy said. "We saw that we could get out to a big lead and just banked on that throughout the whole game. They kind of shocked us in the second game, but we came back."
Prep started strong again in the third game, taking a 15-7 advantage on a kill by Norsworthy and sealing the win on a three-point service run by Nolan Jimbo (nine kills) that included two aces.
Firebaugh made a good effort at forcing a fifth game by leading early in the fourth, but the Rebels tied the game at 9 and took a 16-12 lead on a run that included big kills by Norsworthy and Smith. They began to pull away with a Smith kill, a Norsworthy block and an ace by Alex Holden to make it 20-14.
"Jared and Kenyatta, those are the two guys who put the ball down for us," said Prep Coach Sean Beattie, who got nine kills from Chad Cosse and 44 assists from setter Kieren Mulroy. "Everyone can hit, but those two guys are the ones that get the crowd on their feet.
"[The Falcons] saw [Smith] up there and they started trying to hit around him. He definitely changed what they wanted to do today."