LA CAÑADA —Two neighboring schools with respective boys’ volleyball teams not yet solidified and looking to go nowhere but up took to the court in an early season match-up on Wednesday.
It was the season opener for an incomplete La Cañada High squad, as it waits for players on the school’s basketball team that reached the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III-A playoffs.
The Spartans drove across the street to Flintridge Prep to face the Rebels, who graduated all but one starter and return three players from last season’s team that went undefeated in Prep League play and boasted three first-team All-League standouts.
The Rebels, in their second match of the season, prevailed over the Spartans, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-20.
Dante Fregoso, a co-captain, led Flintridge Prep (2-0) with 12 kills and 14 digs in a match that was tightly contested throughout.
“We’re a brand new team and they are the first good team we’ve faced this season,” Rebels Coach Sean Beattie said. “It took us a second to get caught up, but I thought we played really well in the second and the third.”
Down, 2-1, in games, La Cañada (0-1) led, 7-2, in the fourth and looked poised to send the match into a fifth game, but a rotation miscue cost the Spartans three points and tied the game in its early stages at 4.
After an extended delay in which the official consulted with the scoring table, the ruling was that the wrong Spartans player had been serving, thus resulting in the penalty.
The Spartans were never quite the same mentally thereafter and the Rebels capitalized, finishing it in four with an 8-3 run to close it out.
“It’s not a great thing to start [a game] with,” second-year Spartans Coach Otto Lacayo said. “The kids got frustrated. They fought back, though.”
Lacayo’s Spartans were paced by 28 kills from Mel Schroeder and 19 from Connor Walbrecht, who also tallied 24 digs.
The two combined for eight kills in the first game, in which the Spartans never trailed after breaking a 16-16 tie. Neither team could gain much separation, as the largest lead in the opening game was five at 24-19 in favor of La Cañada, which surrendered the next three points before securing the win.
The Spartans overcame four service errors in the frame.
The second game also saw a 16-16 tie score, but this time it was Flintridge Prep that picked up the ensuing point and never looked back, despite eight kills from Schroeder.
Fregoso compiled five kills in the game, but it was fellow co-captain Kyle Law’s three kills in the final stretch, including the game-winner, that proved instrumental.
“We missed some serves in the second game that gave them confidence,” Lacayo said. “And we stopped using our outside guys.”
An evenly matched contest continued in a third game that saw 14 tie scores and seven lead changes — the last going to the Rebels, who did not relinquish it again.
La Cañada stayed in it, even knotting it up at 19, but the Rebels scored six of the final eight points to come out victorious in the all-important third.
After the penalty in the fourth game, La Cañada’s focus dipped and mental errors wound up costing it and preventing a fifth.
“It helped us, because we were off to a really bad start,” said Beattie, who also received 11 kills from co-captain Trip Westmoreland and a team-high 33 assists from Aldridge Khin. “It’s one of those unfortunate things that has happened to all us coaches. It changed the momentum and we were able to stay focused.
“I’m happy with where we are as early as we are with the talent we lost.”
The Rebels will travel to Providence to compete in the Providence Tournament over the weekend.
Lacayo shared similar sentiments, just one match into the season.
“It’s the beginning and it’s good to be where we’re at, but we can get a lot better,” he said, while also praising his libero Connor Beltcher, who had a match-high 41 assists.