LA CRESCENTA — Despite having already clinched a playoff spot, the Crescenta Valley High girls' volleyball squad still had good reason to play with high motivation in their home finale Thursday afternoon.
Playing with heavy hearts after the passing of longtime softball Coach Dan Berry on Wednesday and wanting to send the team's two seniors, Kira Guarino and Payton Wheeler, out on a high note, the playoff-bound Falcons weren't lacking in pressure.
On the other side, visiting Glendale played a bit more freely, which led to fewer mistakes in a 25-19, 27-25, 18-25, 25-18 upset victory at Crescenta Valley High.
"It was a big night for our seniors, and the underclassmen wanted to win it for them, so I thought we'd come with more firepower, but we just got caught up in the last home game," said Falcons first-year Coach Jen Ku Kim, whose team dropped to 8-7, 7-6 in league play. "Externally, I know the passing of softball Coach Dan Berry was weighing on my mind."
Berry, who was a fixture at all Falcons sporting events, died early Wednesday morning at the age of 65.
The Nitros led throughout the first game, cruising to a 25-19 posting, but not before Crescenta Valley made a late run, scoring five unanswered points to cut the Glendale lead to 23-19 and prompting a timeout.
The Falcons carried the momentum into the tightly contest second game that saw seven ties. Crescenta Valley led most of the way, and looked to have the game in hand at 24-19, but it slipped away as the Nitros scored five straight to knot it at 24. The teams traded the next two points before Glendale closed it out.
"We've been having a hard time finishing games, but today's a good sign," said Nitros Coach Jennifer Vo, whose team improved to 8-9 overall, 4-8 in league. "We were able to pull through and had a good range of players who stepped up."
"When the score got to 24-20, I was going to call a timeout, but I didn't and a couple minutes went by," said Kim, who called the timeout when the Nitros tied it at 24. "I guess it was pressure."
The Falcons came back to win the third in dominating fashion, leading the entire way and highlighted by a Guarino ace for the game-winner. Guarino led the Falcons with 22 kills, including four to account for the team's first four points of the fourth game.
Glendale went on an early 5-0 run to take an 8-4 lead and one that would not be relinquished.
"We played hard, and left everything on the court, so that's good to know," Wheeler said. "But it would have been nice to go out on top."
For the Nitros, Kristen Cabarong paved the way with 10 kills, followed by Andrea's Popescu's eight and Ninette Mirzakhanian's seven. Cabarong added four aces, second on the team to Amy Tran, who finished with five.
Crescenta Valley finishes the Pacific League season Tuesday at Arcadia and hosts its annual tournament today and Saturday. Glendale hosts Hoover in both teams' finale.