LA CRESCENTA — Two days after being swept at home, the Crescenta Valley High girls’ volleyball team nearly turned in the upset of the young Pacific League season.
The Falcons found some redemption and, perhaps even more surprising, found themselves in contention with defending league co-champion Arcadia before the Apaches finally secured a hard-fought, 25-15, 22-25, 25-17, 25-20 victory Thursday.
“Arcadia is a very good team, very tough and very tall,” Falcons Coach Jen Ku Lee said. “I could talk all day about how good they are, but I was impressed with how we played against them. We didn’t do well [in a 3-0 loss to visiting] Glendale on Tuesday. I liked how we played today.”
Arcadia (9-4, 6-0 in league) raced out to a 7-2 lead in the deciding fourth game, but could never quite shake the feisty Falcons (9-6, 4-3), who eventually knotted the score at 11 on a block from Sabrina Shahbandeh over Arcadia’s Kristen Mueller and took a 13-12 lead after a kill from Emmie Walker.
Crescenta Valley held a lead as late as 16-15 before the Apaches scored three consecutive points, with the last point coming on a kill from Jessica Hopkins that put Arcadia, 18-16.
From that point on, the Apaches never trailed, eventually leading, 22-18, before the Falcons made a final push and climbed within 22-20 on an ace from Nannette Grigorian (14 digs).
Arcadia responded with a kill from Lexi Resch (match-high 16 kills), which was the first of three consecutive scores for the Apaches, who closed out a 25-20 victory.
“I’m not surprised by the effort from Crescenta Valley. I saw this team in the summer and knew they would be dangerous,” Apaches Coach Chuck Freberg said. “The whole entire league is improved. You can’t really assume anything.”
The Falcons won the second game, which was both impressive and unlikely given the team took a timeout after an attacking error gave Arcadia an 18-12 lead.
Amazingly, the Falcons closed out a wild rally with a 13-4 run that included kills from Casssidy Iannello, Samantha Rubio, Shahbandeh, Walker (10 kills and four digs) and Micaela Guarino.
The game-clincher, however, came on a combo block from the duo of Guarino and Rubio (three blocks) of Arcadia’s Allison Stevenson (15 kills).
“We just had a lot more energy today than we did on Tuesday,” said Iannello, who finished with 12 kills, 11 assists and two blocks. “There’s a lot to get better at, but I like that we played harder. We’ll be ready for Arcadia next time.”
The Falcons stayed within three to four points of Arcadia in the third game, trailing, 16-13, after a kill from Marina Torres (18 assists).
After that point, though, the Apaches countered with five straight kills in going up, 20-13, and not looking back.
The first game may have been the only one that wasn’t competitive as the Apaches led, 13-6, and never allowed the Falcons to get any closer than five points in an eventual 25-15 win.
“We wanted to be competitive today and we were,” Iannello said. “It wasn’t just about playing, but challenging Arcadia and we did that.”