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Highlanders Can't Net Dolphins This Time PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry, Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 24 May 2012 03:13

Palisades Gets A Measure Of Revenge in City Division I Boys Volleyball Final By Defeating Defending Champs

Granada Hills was the defending City Section Division I champion in boys' volleyball. But the Highlanders still entered last weekend's 2012 final in an unfamiliar position – an underdog and the second seed.

Pacific Palisades was the top seed, a team that had beaten Granada Hills 3-1 back on March 9, a team that brought great height and great energy to Venice High. Just as important, the Dolphins were due to win a final.

That they did, knocking off the Highlanders in straight sets, 25-20, 26-24 and 25-23. Palisades (29-7), won its 12th volleyball title – the most by one City team since 1974 – but its first since 2008. The Dolphins were appearing in their third straight final, but had lost to Taft in 2010, and Granada Hills last year.

"This is my third finals appearance in three years, and I was the most emotionally vested in this one, for sure," Palisades Coach Chris Forrest said. "(Granada Hills Coach) Tom (Harp) is a good friend of mine, so it was nice to get him back, for once. And yeah, the third time was the charm."

It did appear the Dolphins would make quick work of the Highlanders bolting out to a 9- 5 lead in the first game, and never being in serious danger of giving the lead up. Dolphins' senior outside hitter Connor Nash was pile-driving kill shots like he had the hammer of Thor, giving the Highlander defenders little chance to return.

And another pattern was emerging: Palisades was not giving Granada Hills many opportunities to go on extended runs when the Highlanders had the ball.

"We were really having a difficult time getting points when we were serving; they were 'siding out' really well," Harp said of Palisades. "They also pass very well. When they get that good pass up there, they're really tough to stop."

But instead of acting demoralized, the Highlanders dug in their heels and fought with the Dolphins for every point the next two games.

Both Games Two and Three would reach 23-all ties. But every key bounce, "out" call, block or serve seemed to go the Dolphins' way.

Forrest said it wasn't just an accident, or luck.

"We'd been working on '23- out' for the last two weeks, specifically trying to come out on top because we had a couple of big games – one with (Chula Vista) Otay Ranch, the state champ last year – where we had them in a game at 23-all and when we lost," he said

"From that point on, we've been working on '23-all' ever since, making sure we come out on top. We never give up, we stay poised, just persist and persevere."

Still, it wasn't until the final Highlanders' return went into the net in Game Three that the Dolphins could relax – and celebrate.

"My hat's off to Granada. They played great and had us scared the whole time," Forrest said. "We were playing nervous.

Nash had 10 kills for Palisades. But there were other Dolphin contributors; outside hitters Chance Earnest and Alex Frapech, both seniors, had nine kills each, and sophomore setter Nick Wittbrodt amassed 37 assists.

Granada Hills (23-6-1) got solid performances from junior outside hitter Billy De La Espriella and senior outside hitter Jino Labao, both with 10 kills. Senior setter David Salgado provided 32 assists.

It just wasn't enough this time.

"We did a lot of good things this season," Harp said. "We won the (West Valley) league and went undefeated – that's always a big plus. We'll keep our heads up high because we lost to an excellent team. No problems, no regrets. I salute Pali."

In the Division II final, defending champion and top seed Los Angeles Jordan dispatched Verdugo Hills in straight sets, 25- 22, 25-20 and 25-20. It was the second straight year the Bulldogs (37-5-1) defeated Verdugo Hills for the title

The Dons (34-6) came into the final on a 19-match winning streak. But they never held a lead in any of the three games, primarily due to the efforts of senior outside hitter Cesar Medina, who had 31 kills for Jordan.

Senior outside hitter C.J. Suarez had 25 kills for Verdugo Hills.

In the Small Schools final, Northridge Academy (18-4-2) won its third title in the past six years, defeating Cudahy Elizabeth Learning Center 25-18, 25-23, 21- 25 and 25-18. The Pumas, who had 22 kills by senior outside hitter Justin Bates, also avenged last year's final loss to the Bulldogs.

ELC (12-8) was attempting to win its third title in the past four years.

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