With a road match, young team and first appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, there were a number of excuses lined up for an underdog La Cañada High boys’ volleyball team.
The Spartans didn’t need any of them, as they swept through Golden West League-champion Segerstrom of Santa Ana, 25-14, 25-23, 25-14, to net the program’s first playoff victory since 2006 on Tuesday.
“We were the underdog,” first-year La Cañada Coach Otto Lacayo said. “They were a good team, but we were going all out and playing aggressive. They came with a chip on their shoulder and just played harder as the road team.”
After outshooting a gun-shy Jaguars squad in the first game, Lacayo warned his team to expect the opposition to push back in the second game.
“They were cautious,” Lacayo said of Segerstrom in the opener. “They didn’t want to make mistakes and you could see that.
“They were battling most of the second game and I told our guys during a timeout we haven’t really seen them play in system yet, so be ready for them to come out and play with nothing to lose.”
Segerstrom (16-6) cleaned things up and took a quick 9-5 lead. Determined not to let momentum slip away, the Spartans (16-10) battled back to a tie at 19.
“From there, it was good competition, it was sideout, sideout,” said Lacayo, who credited senior Bijan Rahimi for coming up with some big aces, digs and assists to turn the game around when Segerstrom started locking in on La Cañada outside hitter Mel Schroeder, who had a team-high 10 kills.
The Spartans picked up the narrow second-game victory and produced another dominant effort in the third game to clinch the sweep and move onto the second round where they’ll face the winner of the match between Village Christian, the Olympic League champion, and Oxnard on Thursday.
“It helps our morale a lot because this is the first time we’ve been to CIF as a team,” said Rahimi, who finished with three digs and three aces. “It’s showing we have some fight and we want to win.”
The Spartans received another big effort from freshman setter Connor Walbrecht (20 assists, 12 digs, two blocks) and senior right side hitter Orion Burl (seven digs, six kills, three aces and two blocks).
La Cañada also got six kills from Jack Anderson, 11 digs and four assists from freshman Connor Belcher and three aces and two blocks from Jonathan Sullivan.