PASADENA — It started out as a friendly exhibition, but the competitive nature of both squads intensified with every point Saturday in the 2012 San Gabriel Valley Public vs. Private All-Star Underclassmen Boys' Volleyball match at Caltech.
The Private School squad, which included players from St. Francis High, Flintridge Prep, Pasadena Poly and La Salle, rallied from behind on several occasions for a three-game victory, 24-26, 25-21, 15-8, over a Public School team that featured locals from Burroughs, La Cañada, San Marino and South Pasadena.
St. Francis setter Christopher Thompson and Burroughs opposite Daniel Jacobs both earned MVP honors for their respective squads.
"It's a great opportunity," said Thompson, who had an all-around day with nine assists, four kills, two digs and two aces, of the match. "I know a lot of these guys on both teams from club and it was a great opportunity to come out and play with them. It's an amazing experience being able to play with such a high level of guys."
Neither team was satisfied with simply being there, though.
"Maybe it's the Public vs. Private School rivalry or the fact that a lot of these guys know each other, but everyone really wanted to win," said Jacobs, who provided some of the most powerful kills of the day as he finished tied for a match-high in kills with the Golden Knights' Charles McCarthy (four digs, two aces) with seven and a block. "Both teams played hard, but I think [the Private School team] wanted it more."
The Public School squad was in control in the first game, as it maintained a four-point cushion for most of the contest, but down, 20-17, the Private School squad used a 5-1 run — highlighted by two Public errors, a Thompson kill and an ace from Loyola's Garrett Mohr — to take its first lead of the game, 22-21.
Both squads traded points, as the Public team knotted the game at 24 on a Private School hitting error. A kill from Gabrielino's Andy Yu gave Public a one-point lead and South Pasadena's Robert Adamson delivered the victory when he stuffed a kill attempt from McCarthy for the win.
It was truly a game of runs in the second set, as the Private team used a 6-0 run to take a 9-7 lead before things quickly turned into a 14-9 deficit with a 7-0 Public Schools spurt.
"At first it was kind of just about having fun, but as it went along guys got into it and that actually made it a lot more fun," said La Salle's Ben Dalgarn, who had a kill, block and dig in the match. "We just stayed together, didn't get down and we got through it."
A timeout turned the game around yet again for the Private Schools group, as it cut the deficit to four, 18-14.
"We knew we wanted to win it and from the beginning we knew we could," said Mohr, a San Marino resident, who finished a match-high three blocks, two kills, a dig and an ace. "We were playing kind of slow at first, so we just took a timeout and talked about what we had to do and went out and executed."
Mohr led the charge with his team down late, 18-14, as the Private team used an 11-3 run to take the game.
McCarthy trimmed Public's advantage to one, 18-17, with back-to-back points on a kill and block. Mohr kept his team within one, 19-18, with a kill and gave it a 22-19 lead it would never look back from with three straight blocks.
"In all honesty, the Private School guys keyed in on us," Jacobs said. "They knew where we wanted to go and I think in the end they wanted it more."
The Private School team was forced to rally from behind again down, 6-3, in the third and deciding game.
McCarthy brought the score to 6-5 with a kill and Thompson kept his squad within one, 7-6, with a kill of his own. Two Public errors and another McCarthy kill gave the Private group its first lead of the game, 9-8.
The Public team wouldn't score again, as it committed five errors down the stretch to deliver the Private victory.
"Obviously these games are all about getting everyone together, having a good time and playing good volleyball," Mohr said, "but as it goes along you get competitive and realize you want to win so halfway through we just turned it on."
Representing for Flintridge Prep was Kareem Ismail, who had three kills and a block on the day and Pasadena Poly's Dennis Grover finished with four digs.
La Cañada's Jonathan Sullivan (one kill) played on the Public School squad, along with Burroughs' Daniel Marbach, who had four kills and a block, and B.J. Lagmay (a block and a dig), San Marino's Andrew Boon and Vincent Ma and South Pasadena's Jason Qui (three kills and a block) and David Barker (ace).