LA CAÑADA — At match-point in the fourth game of their Prep League match Wednesday against Chadwick, with the league championship on the line, the Flintridge Prep boys’ volleyball players and coach Sean Beattie celebrated as the ball appeared to be hit long by the Dolphins.
However, the Rebels’ celebration was short-lived, as the head official called the shot in, giving Chadwick new life. The Dolphins came back to win the stanza, forcing a crucial fifth game.
Undaunted by the pressure, the Rebels regrouped and turned back the Dolphins in the fifth, sending the visitors home with a 25-15, 23-25, 25-18, 24-26, 15-13 loss.
“On that point in the fourth game, I told the guys it was out, yes, but you know what?, they called it in, so it’s in. Now we have to get over it,” Beattie said. “I told them if you’re frustrated, I get it. But you have to get over it now. It is one of those things that as long as you can get the frustration out quickly and then move on, it’ll be OK.”
The win was substantial and monumental for Flintridge Prep (16-6, 7-0 in league), as it captured its first league championship since 2010 when it had to share it with Chadwick (11-11, 4-2) and Pasadena Poly. With just one more league match Friday against host Pasadena Poly, the Rebels have the championship all to themselves.
Beattie has never had a team go undefeated in league in his 16 years heading the Flintridge Prep program.
It’s also the first time the Dolphins have failed to win a league crown in the past eight years. In fact, Chadwick has been so dominating in the league that prior to this season; it had won seven of nine league championships since the league was formed 10 years ago.
In addition, Chadwick is the two-time defending CIF Southern Section Division V champion.
“This is big for us, for sure,” said Flintridge Prep senior Chadd Cosse, who led the team with 17 kills. “We knew that just because we beat them the first time this season that they were going to come in ready. But we were able to come back and get motivated for that fifth game, and that’s what helped us win.”
The Rebels, ranked No. 10 in CIF Southern Section Division IV, received major contributions from a group of players. While Dante Fregoso contributed 11 kills and 21 digs, Kareem Ismail had 10 kills and 11 blocks, Tyler Weakland had 10 kills and Mike Lii had 52 assists.
“We have 11 seniors on this team and they’re the ones who lead us,” Beattie said. “And we have a lot of talented guys who can step up and contribute. We think this is our year and the guys have been motivated all season.”
In the fifth game, the Rebels took control early and when Ismail blocked a Chadwick spike attempt at the net, Flintridge Prep had built a 7-3 lead. But the Dolphins embarked on a 6-1 run and quickly the Rebels found themselves trailing, 9-8.
The teams played to two ties after that before the Rebels were able to surge ahead, 10-9, on an ace by Fregoso and increased the lead to 13-10. But the Dolphins didn’t back down and when Flintridge Prep committed a hitting error, the advantage was cut to one, 14-13. Fortunately for the Rebels, the winning point was scored on a Chadwick unforced error, as the ball hit the roof on the Dolphins’ side and went over the net for a violation.
“This is really payback for all the times that Chadwick has beaten us over the years,” Ismail said. “We should have beaten them in less than five games, but I’m happy that we were able to win it.”
In the fourth game, Chadwick took an early lead and maintained it until the Rebels stormed back to go ahead, 22-21. With the Rebels leading, 24-23, Chadwick’s Connor Lucier hit a hard shot that was close to the out-of-bounds line. The shot was eventually called in, knotting the score at 24. The Dolphins were able to score the next two points to force the fifth game.
The Rebels started off the match strong, easily taking the first game despite committing seven service errors.
Flintridge Prep almost battled back to win the second game after trailing, 24-19. The Rebels notched the next four points in dramatic fashion to get to within one, 24-23. However, the Dolphins closed out the game on a kill by Blair Horner.
The third saw the Rebels take a 9-8 lead and never trail thereafter.
“These kids fought back and I’m really proud of that,” Beattie said. “They really deserve this.”