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John Glenn comes out flat in league championship loss to Bellflower

By Loren Kopff

One thing was for sure when the John Glenn boys volleyball team hosted Bellflower last Thursday. Someone was going to win its first ever Suburban League championship.
In its 11-year history of fielding a boys volleyball program, Glenn has never finished higher than third place in the league but will have to settle for no worse than second as Bellflower swept the host Eagles 25-15, 25-16, 25-17, giving the Buccaneers a season sweep over Eagles. The match took on a different look just 48 hours earlier as Glenn was upset by fourth place Artesia, meaning the best Glenn could do is share the league crown with Bellflower. The four-set loss to the Pioneers definitely affected the team against the Bucs.
“Mentally I think it did,” said John Glenn head coach Davion Jackson. “I think it weighed heavy on their hearts that they lost on Tuesday. We just didn’t come prepared to play.”
Glenn (17-6 overall, 8-3 in league) held a slim 4-3 lead in the first set on a net serve, but a serving error opened the door for Elai Mama, who reeled off 11 straight points to give Bellflower a commanding 15-5 lead. During that run, 6’3” opposite hitter Alfredo Larranaga was a force at the net, pounding down five kills and combining on a block with Vince Madrigal. Three other points were aces from Mama. Larranaga ended the match with 17 kills.
“I don’t think it was about containing him,” Jackson said. “It was more or less we couldn’t pass the ball. We couldn’t get out of serve receive, so we gave them free balls left and right in that run. We just couldn’t pass the ball.”
The Eagles got to within five points (17-12) after consecutive aces from sophomore defensive specialist Diego Garcia but a flurry of errors allowed the Bucs to pull away. In the second set, the Eagles rallied from a 7-3 deficit to tie it up at 11-11. But the second long serve of the match to that point turned the ball over to the visitors and from there, Ivan Toledo served seven straight points to put the set away.
The teams combined for eight straight sideouts to begin the third set and the score was 12-12 until a kill from Larranaga and six straight points served from him put the final nail in the coffin. In addition to the hitting of Larranaga, the Eagles hurt themselves with a barrage of net violation errors, including one that ended the match.
“I preached to them before [the match] everything has to be on point,” Jackson said. “To come out and have a countless amount of errors…there was one point where we had an error off a free ball, unforced. There were just too many piled up and a team like [Bellflower] is going to capitalize on them.”
Junior middle blocker Marcos Aguirre led the Eagles with a dozen kills while six other players combined for nine more kills. Still, the Eagles are having their best season in school history as they had never won more than 11 matches in a season and had no fewer than nine losses in any season. Now, Glenn will be searching for its first playoff victory and a trip to the second round. Glenn has previously made five trips to the playoffs, having been swept each time.
“I told them this game was over with and league was done with,” Jackson said. “Our next goal is not to be one and done; to move on to the second round and even maybe the third round. Maybe even the fourth round. I did mention that to them.”