La Cañada High boys' volleyball rallies past Village Christian

LA CAÑADA — Energized from the noisy crowd, Mel Schroeder had no trouble rising to the occasion with the season on the line for the La Cañada High volleyball team Thursday night.

As a freshman, the 6-foot-6 outside hitter waited for an opportunity to deliver a clutch postseason performance for the Spartans. He got the job done in the nick of time.

Schroeder finished with 12 kills — including four in the decisive fifth game — to help propel host La Cañada to a 25-20, 23-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-7 victory against Village Christian in a CIF Southern Section Division III second-round match.

La Cañada (19-14) will meet fourth-seeded Hemet in a quarterfinal match at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It was loud out there and I loved the responsibility of taking charge and doing anything I could to help my team out,” said Schroeder, who has recorded 22 kills in two postseason matches. “You go out there and get a big block or kill.

“When I got a kill, it felt like five points instead of one.”

Schroeder opened and closed the fifth game with powerful kills.

Burl, a senior outside hitter, collected a pair of kills in the final game.

Like Schroeder, Burl could feel the electricity from the bipartisan crowd that included a loud fan base from nearby Village Christian of Sun Valley.

“Having the home crowd behind us helped out a lot,” Burl said. “You get that rush of energy and you want to come out strong.

“We went into the fourth game with a new look on our blocking. We used it to our advantage and [Village Christian] couldn’t adjust to out blockers attacking the net.”

A kill by Burl gave the Spartans, who opened the playoffs Tuesday with a 25-14, 25-23, 25-14 home win against Segerstrom, a 6-3 lead in the fifth game. He then picked up another kill to extend the lead to 10-4 and force Village Christian (18-11) to call timeout.

The Crusaders closed to within 10-6 on a kill by outside hitter Andrew English, but the Spartans, who received 52 assists and 30 digs from setter Connor Walbrecht, finished up on a 5-1 run.

Village Christian appeared to be in command after winning the pivotal third game. However, La Cañada regrouped to knot the match up at two games apiece.

“We talked leading up to the fourth game about fighting on to keep extending our season,” said La Cañada Coach Otto Lacayo, who got 29 digs from libero Connor Belcher and nine kills from opposite hitter Jonathan Sullivan. “We knew we had to be aggressive and keep on attacking.

“Mel is the X-factor out there for us. He disrupts a lot of things.”

The Spartans never trailed in the fourth game, racing out to a 15-8 lead on a stuff block by Sullivan. Village Christian could get no closer than 21-17 before a kill by Burl made it 22-17.

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