Spartans can't close out victory

The La Cañada High boys' volleyball squad has dug itself a hole in regards to playoff contention Tuesday. But digging themselves a hole is nothing new to the Spartans this season.

The Spartans fell behind early against Temple City at home, a trend they've continued all season. The Rams, who are undefeated in league play, capitalized on La Cañada's mistakes to earn a three-game win, 25-20, 28-26, 25-21.

La Cañada Coach David Woo said his team's 23 errors (13 hitting and serving) were too much to come back from.

"Everybody knows in volleyball you can't commit so many unforced errors, especially against a team like [Temple City]," Woo said.

The loss drops La Cañada to 7-12 (1-5 in the Rio Hondo League) and puts the Spartans in a "chokehold" for playoff contention, Woo said. They have to win their next two games against South Pasadena and Gabrielino, teams they've lost to earlier in the season, and hope to get help from other teams to make it into playoffs.

"We can still make the playoffs, but we're going to have to get on a hot streak," Woo said. "There's no margin for error anymore and we've dug this hole ourselves."

The Spartans made victory more difficult than it had to be against Temple City (11-7, 5-0). They fell behind early, 8-2, in the first game and managed to cut the deficit to 20-21 before dropping the first game.

Those early leads allowed the Rams to play more freely, said Temple City Coach Eric Chin, who admitted his team didn't have it's "A-game" on Tuesday.

"It's pretty important, because if we have a cushion, we can try more stuff and we're looser out there on the court. If it's a really tight game, our guys get a little tense and we're prone to make more mistakes," Chin said.

The Rams got out to an early 13-7 lead in the second game before La Cañada clawed its way back, knotting the game at 21. It looked like Temple City had the game in hand, going on a three-point run for a 24-21 lead. But the Spartans struck again and took a 26-25 edge. However, the hosts couldn't close it out, as two hitting errors led to a 28-26 Temple City victory.

"When we need to put the ball away, we don't know who to go to. We just don't close — plain and simple. We start out slow and dig a hole, and we may come back; but we don't close," Woo said.

Every time the Rams needed a big point they looked to Tim Sanderson, who finished with a game-high 13 kills.

"He might be the MVP of our league, we can always count on him," Chin said.

La Cañada kept the third game close, never letting Temple City get out to more than a five-point lead, but the Spartans could never take over the lead.

Victor Hsieh and Paul Yeo had 10 and nine kills, respectively, for Temple City. Matt Faber led La Cañada's offense with 12 kills and Sean Mintie added five.

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