The La Cañada High boys' volleyball team knew heads were turned on Friday when the Spartans defeated Flintridge Prep in five games, 23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 10-25, 16-14.
"We kind of have a target on our back now, and it's a learning experience for us," La Cañada Coach David Woo said.
The Spartans couldn't get a winning streak going against Hart on Friday, however, falling to the Indians in three straight games, 25-15, 25-12, 25-15.
It was only the second match in which La Cañada middle blockers Matt Faber and Sean Mintie were in the lineup since basketball season ended on March 19 — and Hart took advantage.
"They're a really, really good blocking team, that's probably what discouraged us, and they run a really quick offense — something we're not accustomed to," Woo said.
Woo scheduled La Cañada's preseason games against teams like Flintridge Prep, Hart, Burroughs, Campbell Hall, St. Francis and Beverly Hills in order to challenge his team with quality competition they may not see in Rio Hondo League, as well as prepare them for the postseason.
"When we get to the playoffs, it's a whole different animal," Woo said.
La Cañada (6-6) started strongly against Hart, evening things up at 7-7 in the first game. But the Indians quickly went on a 9-2 run to get a stranglehold on the first game at 16-9.
The Spartans couldn't rebound, and Hart walked away with easy victories in the next two games.
"This shows we've still got a lot to work on," Woo said.
Stephen Gannon had six digs for La Cañada on Friday. Taylor Gregory and J.J. Mosolf led Hart's offense and defense. Gregory finished with 15 blocks and six kills, and Mosolf had a game-high 11 kills.
Faber, who was a standout tennis player for the Spartans, is trying his hand at volleyball for the first time this season.
"I'd never seen volleyball before, but I guess I'm playing good — they say I'm playing good," said Faber, who had a team-high 14 kills against the Rebels on March 23 and tied for a team-high kills again on Friday with four. "I didn't know what a kill was until that game (against Flintridge Prep)."
Woo said Mintie and Faber's heights should give his team an advantage in a small Rio Hondo League.
"Before, we only had one player who was 6-2, now we have two guys — one 6-3" (Mintie) and one 6-5 (Faber), so it does put up a bigger block," Woo said. "It may come in handy in league because most teams only have one big guy and now we have two big guys."
Greg Moore, La Cañada's captain, also likes what Mintie and Faber have brought to the team.
"Our focus [heading into league] is just teamwork basically," Moore said. "We have good passing, good setting and good hitting. We've just got to put it all together."
The Spartans also lost to Beverly Hills in three straight games Monday, 25-18, 25-10, 25-10, and began Rio Hondo League competition on Tuesday against San Marino.