Flintridge Prep boys' volleyball preps for new division

There was no clean sweep in local boys’ volleyball when the CIF Southern Section released its playoff pairings Saturday morning.

Reigning Prep League champion Flintridge Prep will carry the torch as the lone postseason entry when the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs begin Tuesday evening.

Flintridge Prep (17-7) will host Cerritos Whitney (14-5), the Academy League third-place entry, in the first round on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Even though the Rebels are no stranger to the postseason, there are still several unknowns.

“I’ve been coaching for 16 years and every year we’ve been in Division V. So, this is a real new experience in Division IV,” Rebels Coach Sean Beattie said. “We knew who the good teams were and who to watch out for in Division V and had a real comfort there.”

The Rebels enter the playoffs red hot, winners of nine of their last 10 matches.

The one blemish during that run was a 3-1 setback to city rival St. Francis on Wednesday that snapped a nine-match winning streak.

“Even though we dropped that game to St. Francis, we were right there and were in every game,” Beattie said. “Hey, they have two guys going [to play Division I college volleyball], so confidence-wise, I think that game helped. I think we can play with just about anybody.”

Beattie’s confidence stems from his team’s depth.

While it’s easy to focus on middle blockers Kareem Ismail (2.7 kills and 1.5 blocks per game) and Trip Westmoreland (one kill and one block per game), who will be at the center of the offense and defense, a game plan solely created on shutting down the duo may be fool’s gold.

“The great thing about us is that everyone on this team, during one game or another, has led this team in kills,” said Beattie, who has a pair of powerful pin hitters in Chadd Cosse (2.5 kills per game) and Dante Fregoso (2.3 kills per game). “We’re well-balanced.”

The concern may very well be on Ismail, the team’s 6-foot-5 leader, who rolled his ankle in the first game of a 3-0 win versus archrival Pasadena Poly on April 26.

Ismail played the rest of the match, but later that evening missed an all-star basketball game. Ismail did play in the team’s season finale Wednesday and is “likely to be 100%” at match time, according to Beattie.

As for Whitney, Beattie admits he has little info on the squad.

“I know one of their coaches — Elliot Walker — used to coach at Salesian. So, I can anticipate they’re a well-coached team and will be one of the best teams we’ll see,” Beattie said. “Regardless of their style of play, we’re going to assume that they’ll be difficult.”

A victory would vault the Rebels into Thursday’s second round against either Santa Fe League runner-up Los Angeles Salesian (14-8) or Los Padres League second-place finisher Santa Ynez (10-14) with a possible showdown with divisional top-seeded Los Angeles Cathedral (23-9), the reigning divisional champion, on the horizon for a Saturday evening quarterfinal showdown.

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