LA CRESCENTA — For the first time, the Crescenta Valley High Varsity Boys’ Volleyball Tournament expanded to include 20 teams in its 12th year.
The Falcons will have to wait to at least one more year to add another first to their tournament – their first championship after going 1-2 in pool play Friday, the first day of the annual tournament.
“We’ve never won this tournament — never,” Crescenta Valley Coach John Nelson said. “It kills me, but that’s because we always have good teams here; it’s just competitive.”
Teams from as nearby as La Cañada and far away as San Diego came to Crescenta Valley for the tournament, which was bumped up from 16 to 20 squads this year.
“We’re trying it to see if we can hold 20,” Nelson said. “I am trying it and we’ll see it how it goes. If it works out OK, we’ll stay up at 20. People seem to like it.”
Having split its first two pool-play matches, Crescenta Valley (8-12) needed to close the day with a win against Paraclete to keep hopes of winning the tournament for the first time alive.
The match went the full three games and while the Falcons showed the ability to battle back from late deficits, they ultimately fell, 25-20, 21-25, 15-13. The loss dropped Crescenta Valley to third place in its pool with Taft winning it with a 3-0 record and Paraclete taking second.
The Falcons will compete in the silver division, which will include Righetti, Salesian, La Cañada and three teams that’ll be determined by a play-in round to the gold division, in the final day of the tournament Saturday. While Nelson would have liked to qualify for the gold division and compete for the tournament title, he was pleased with the improvement his team has been showing of late, including Friday.
“Right now, it’s fun because we’re improving rapidly,” he said. “We waited all year to get certain things done and now we’re improving really fast and it’s fun to watch.”
Crescenta Valley’s ultimate focus is winning its regular-season and Pacific League finale Tuesday against Arcadia High to keep its hopes of a CIF Southern Section Division II playoff berth alive.
“For the tournament we’re just trying to get better,” said Nelson, who rotated a number of players in Friday to keep everyone fresh for Arcadia. “We’re not under a lot of stress, it’s not like we’re struggling, just go out, play, get better and fix little things, which we are and it’s starting to show.”
Crescenta Valley led in the third game after a kill from Christopher Han (four kills) gave it a 9-7 lead after it had trailed by three earlier. A 4-0 run driven by two kills, an ace and a block put Paraclete in front, 11-9. The Falcons traded points back and forth but couldn’t stop the offense of Division III 10th-ranked Paraclete, which scored its final four points on kills.
Sophomore Alex Shin helped the Falcons force a third and deciding game. Down four in the second, CV went on a 9-1 run — fueled by two kills and aces from Shin and three Paraclete miscues — to take a big late lead, 21-17. Three straight Paraclete errors and a kill from Chris Yi (four kills) secured the set for Crescenta Valley.
“It’s more fun,” said Shin, who had four kills, two aces and a block in the final match, of the differences between playing in a tournament and a league match. “It’s just about working and getting better.”
The Falcons opened the match on a 5-1 run, but a 6-0 spurt from Paraclete gave it an 11-8 advantage. A pair of 3-0 runs put Paraclete in front, 19-13, before the Falcons got back on track and used a small 5-3 run to pull within 22-18.
A service point halted Crescenta Valley’s momentum and, while a pair of Paraclete errors brought the home team within three, 23-20, consecutive kills sealed the first game for Paraclete.
Crescenta Valley was forced to settle for third in its pool after winning its opener over Verdugo Hills, 25-19, 25-23, and then falling to first-place Taft, 25-15, 25-15.
Zachary Burch had three kills, two blocks and an ace in the final for CV, which also got five kills from Freedom Tripp.