LA CRESCENTA – While the 16-team Crescenta Valley High boys’ volleyball tournament featured only three local varsity squads in St. Francis, Crescenta Valley and La Cañada, the area wasn’t without its strong efforts, led by the Golden Knights.
St. Francis took advantage of the mini-break from Mission League play to go 3-0 Saturday afternoon and capture the silver division crown after a come-from-behind, 22-25, 25-20, 15-12 victory over West Covina at Crescenta Valley.
“You know you work hard all year and it’s nice to get a win,” said St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee, who was missing two starters and three total players because of SAT testing. “We’ve had a lot of tough defeats in the Mission League, in Division I, and it’s a tough message for a young team to keep on working hard when you lose.
“So, this was a reward for their hard work.”
The Golden Knights (9-11) led by three early in the deciding third game only to witness the Bulldogs storm back and knot the game at 9 after a kill from senior Jeremy Thacher.
From that point, though, St. Francis took the lead for good with a 4-0 run that featured two kills from Mark Munoz, one spike from Markar Agakanian and an ace from Sean Stephan.
Down, 13-9, West Covina countered with three straight points before committing an attacking error to send the game to match-point, 14-12.
St. Francis senior Andrew Krappman then sealed the win with a spike through a block attempt.
“We play a lot of good teams in the Mission League and that competition helps us for these types of tournaments,” said Agakanian, who led the squad with four kills and two aces in the win.
St. Francis was 0-3 in Friday’s pool play action and was moved to the silver division, where the squad defeated Los Angeles Marshall, 25-22, 25-14, before taking down Righetti in the bracket semifinals, 25-22, 26-24.
Host Crescenta Valley (21-6) capped a 4-2 run through the tournament with a 25-21, 25-21 defeat to Salesian in the gold division third-place match.
After falling behind by seven in the first game and eventually losing, Crescenta Valley appeared poised to force a third game.
The Falcons jumped ahead, 12-6, in the second game after a kill from Min Kim and managed to stay ahead of the Mustangs until an ace from senior Luis Aranda deadlocked the score at 19.
Crescenta Valley last led, 21-20, after another Kim kill before the Mustangs rallied with five straight points to clinch the win on a Falcons’ hitting error.
“We just didn’t have the intensity in that last match that we had yesterday or earlier today,” said Kim, who tallied six kills and two aces in defeat. “We played a lot of volleyball and were a little tired at the end.”
Kim’s teammate, Raymond Barsemian, finished with six kills versus Salesian and was lauded for his overall strong play by being named to the all-tournament team list.
Crescenta Valley won its pool Friday with victories over Marshall (25-13, 25-19), Paraclete (25-18, 25-18) and La Cañada (25-15, 25-17) and then opened Saturday with a 23-25, 25-23, 17-15 win versus Birmingham.
The Falcons’ hopes of winning their own tournament were derailed in the next round by Eagle Rock, which notched a 25-22, 25-15 win.
“I really wanted those tournament shirts,” said John Nelson, Crescenta Valley coach and tournament organizer, of the tournament title gear.
La Cañada concluded a 4-2 effort with a wild 36-34, 25-14 victory versus Birmingham in the gold division fifth-place game.
“I’m really proud of the effort from the guys, they showed a lot,” said Spartans assistant coach Chris Sullivan, who was filling in for head coach Otto Lacayo. “We had back-to-back losses where we didn’t play well, but we bounced back.”
La Cañada (16-12) was pushed to the brink on several occasions in its first game versus Birmingham as the Patriots took a 24-19 lead.
Yet, the Spartans scored five straight points, including two on consecutive aces from Connor Belcher, to pull even at 24.
From that juncture, the score volleyed back and forth with the Spartans and Patriots each reaching game-point on different occasions.
Birmingham tied the game at 34 on a kill from Isaiah Williams, which was matched the next possession on a kill from Spartans junior Trent Bauer.
La Cañada’s Connor Walbrecht then followed with a kill that cemented the 36-34 win.
“I don’t remember ever being in a game like that,” said Walbrecht, who finished with seven kills in the game and with 10 blocks, 50 assists and 20 digs in three matches Saturday. “We’ve got a big match coming up in league and you want to take the momentum from this into that.”
The Spartans didn’t receive much of a challenge from a drained Birmingham squad in the second-game 25-14 victory.
Sophomore outside hitter Mel Schroeder paced the Spartans with eight kills in the win and 25 kills overall Saturday, while Noah Goldstein also tallied 17 kills through three matches and Blake Cornell added eight blocks and eight kills.
La Cañada went 2-1 on Friday with victories over Paraclete (25-18, 25-18) and Marshall (25-15, 25-17) preceding the loss to Crescenta Valley.
The Spartans then opened Saturday with a 25-12, 25-20 defeat to Rio Hondo League-rival South Pasadena before turning things around with a 15-25, 25-21, 15-10 triumph versus Taft.
South Pasadena won Saturday’s tournament, going 6-0 overall and defeating nearby Eagle Rock in the tournament title match, 25-14, 25-23.
South Pasadena’s Richard Yu was named the tournament MVP, while the all-tournament squad included South Pasadena’s Andrew Rudchenko and Greg Luck, Eagle Rock’s Stuart Ramirez and Jordan Banez and Salesian’s Phillip Magallon.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.