LA CRESCENTA — Although it entered play Tuesday afternoon with a one-match advantage over Pasadena in the Pacific League standings, it was the Bulldogs that really seemed to enjoy the inside track to the league's final automatic CIF playoff berth.
In order to clinch fourth place, the Falcons would have to beat archrival and perennial league power Arcadia in their regular-season finale, whereas a CV loss to the Apaches, combined with an all-but-assured Pasadena victory over winless Muir, would create a tie for fourth.
That latter scenario played out, with Crescenta Valley suffering a 25-10, 25-20, 25-19 loss at home and the Bulldogs picking up a sweep on the road, 25-9, 25-7, 25-10, and claiming the last playoff spot via a tiebreaker that came down to sets won in head-to-head competition against the Falcons.
"Overall, I don't want to say it was a good season, it is what it is, but these girls worked hard," said Crescenta Valley Coach Jen Ku Lee, whose team beat Pasadena on the road in five games on Oct. 10, but were swept by the Bulldogs at home on Sept. 18. "I've learned a lot in my second year as varsity coach, so next year hopefully with a good offseason, we'll come back and we'll get one of those top three spots."
The loss ended the regular season at 8-10 overall and 7-9 in league and with a sub .500 record, the Falcons cannot apply for an at-large CIF berth.
Although the first game ended up being the most lopsided, it was the closest of the match early, as the Falcons kept the match tied at 5.
"At first, they looked pretty flat to me," Lee said of Arcadia (20-7, 14-1), which shared the league title with Burbank.
Nonetheless, it was Crescenta Valley going flat as the game went on, as the Apaches opened up an 11-6 lead and quickly stretched that into an 18-9 advantage before winning seven of the next eight points, including a Kelly Dopke kill to end the game.
Lee said the Falcons really missed the presence of senior middle Noel Wong, who fractured her pinkie finger in practice on Monday. Her absence forced the Falcons, who tried to run a 5-1 defense for the first time this season, into some uncomfortable adjustments.
"We didn't have her serving, we didn't have her in the middle with her defense and obviously her hitting," said Lee, who got six kills from Allison Reik and four apiece from Kasieh Cases and Emmie Walker. "I didn't realize how heavily we depended on her until now.
"We had to kind of fool around with the lineup and see where people fit."
Arcadia led from the beginning of the second game, but only by three to four points until a Lexi Resch kill and a Jessica Hopkins block sparked a 4-0 run that took the score from 19-15 to 23-15.
The Falcons responded with one of their best stretches of the match, however, as they pulled to within 24-20 on an Reik block preceded by a kill from Cases before a Crescenta Valley serve into the net ended the comeback.
Crescenta Valley seemed to have little moxie left in the early stages of the third game, as Arcadia powered to an 8-1 lead and then led 13-4 and 19-10 before finally getting a push back from the Falcons. Reik notched a kill to start a rally that brought within 23-18.