ARCADIA — It was a must-win situation for the Crescenta Valley High boys’ volleyball team Tuesday evening, but Falcons Coach John Nelson wasn’t quite sure why they didn’t play like it.
The Falcons needed to win their regular season finale against host Arcadia to finish in fourth place in the Pacific League standings and, in turn, earn an automatic playoff berth.
Arcadia needed the win just as badly, as both teams went into the match at 5-6 in league play.
Ultimately, the Falcons were flat and succumbed to a more energized team that played up to the high stakes and were swept, 25-23, 25-16, 25-17.
“We didn’t bring our best game, and I don’t know why,” said Nelson, who will coach the team in the annual, exhibition alumni game on Friday after going 7-13 overall. “Phil Jackson didn’t always know why his teams didn’t play well. Whatever the reason, we just didn’t play well.”
Both teams entered the match at 5-6 in league play with the winner catching Burbank, which had already finished 6-6 in league for third place.
Crescenta Valley’s offense struggled to find a rhythm and string together a run big enough to take the Arcadia home crowd out of the match.
Instead, the Falcons’ biggest run of the match was four, and the Apaches were able to stay within striking distance when trailing and maintain leads.
The Falcons, who advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals last season, came out strong, though, and held a 13-9 advantage midway through the first game before Arcadia reeled off five of the next six to tie it at 14.
The Apaches took the lead on the next point and never looked back, despite the Falcons cutting it to 24-23 on a Christopher Han kill late in the frame.
Arcadia jumped on the Falcons in the second game with five unanswered and seven of the first nine. The lead would prove insurmountable for Crescenta Valley, which never led in the second game and trailed by as many as 10 points at 19-9.
The third game saw three tie scores — the last of which was at the 7-7 mark. Arcadia scored five of the next six to take a 12-8 advantage. The Falcons cut the lead to two at 13-11 on a Raymond Barsemian ace but gave up the next four, prompting a timeout.
The Apaches didn’t falter and closed the game out on a 12-6 run to prevail and extend their season.
“It was our most important match of the season,” said Apaches Coach David Iosia, who received a team-high 12 kills from Esteban De Mendoza and 15 digs from Courtland Welborn.
“We were really focused, and we just played an awesome match.”
Crescenta Valley defeated Arcadia in the first meeting on March 29 in five games. This time around, the Falcons did not play with the sense of urgency the match called for.
“[Arcadia] played well, I was impressed,” Nelson said. “They came out focused and didn’t make silly mistakes that we made. I can’t tell you how many balls we hit into the net.”