GLENDALE — Even as Prep League play began in early April, the Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball team was still attempting to jell, having barely gotten its core lineup together on the court for the first time.
Prominent Rebels starters Kenyatta Smith and Jared Norsworthy, both seniors, missed all preseason activities and a good chunk of the nonleague schedule before returning in time to help the Rebels qualify for the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. Even at full strength, the Rebels had their hands full with league mates Chadwick and Pasadena Poly, finishing behind the Dolphins and Panthers in the final league standings at 4-4.
"I thought the team played very well," said Prep Coach Sean Beattie, whose team rose to the occasion in its final two league games against Webb and Rio Hondo Prep when they needed wins in both to make the playoffs. "Once we got everyone back, we knew we weren't going to be playing at 100% right away. It took a little while, but right toward playoffs I felt like we were playing some of our best volleyball."
Smith, a middle blocker, and Norsworthy, an opposite hitter, each earned All-Prep League first-team honors for their roles in leading the Rebels and senior outside hitter Nolan Jimbo, one of the team's best ball handlers, earned a second-team nod for his supporting role.
"I've only played volleyball for two years, so it was a great accomplishment to already be named to an All-Prep League team in only my second year," Norsworthy said. "Since volleyball's not our main sport, it doesn't come second nature to us, so [Smith and I] had to get back into the flow of the game and figure out how we could all jell as a team with the other players."
Smith led the team in kills with 198, averaging 3.6 per game, and also collected a team-high 73 blocks, while Norsworthy was third on the team in kills with 106 and blocks with 43, while also recording seven aces and 24 digs.
"They got better through the year," Beattie said of Smith and Norsworthy. "The progression that [Smith] had from his first year to senior year was absolutely amazing. Jared really came out of nowhere this year. He was one of the go-to guys and he just came to life.
"Both Yatta and Jared had the ability with one swing to put some fear into the other team and that's something we're going to miss next year."
Jimbo totaled 131 kills, second-best on the team, a team-high 25 aces and 141 digs, also second-best for the Rebels.
"Nolan Jimbo is kind of the backbone of our team," Beattie said. "He was a guy that kind of held us together when the basketball team was making their run. He was by far our best passer and defensive player."