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CIF: Gahr foiled by South Pasadena again, swept in divisional finals

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III BOYS VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

English: State Seal of the California Intersch...

By Loren Kopff

The last two seasons, the Gahr boys volleyball team was swept by South Pasadena in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III playoffs. Last Saturday morning, the two met again with the highest of stakes on the line.
But that adage of the third time is the charm was not to be for the Gladiators as the Tigers earned their second straight divisional title, sweeping Gahr 25-19, 25-20, 25-23. Gahr ends its season at 26-6.
“They were better than us,” said Gahr head coach Iris Najera. “They were taller; they jumped higher. I thought we fought harder but unfortunately it didn’t show up on the scoreboard.”
The seventh ranked Gladiators, who had knocked off second ranked Windward in the quarterfinals the previous Saturday, got out to a 4-1 lead in the first set. But with the score tied at 7-7, the division’s top ranked team recorded five straight points and never relinquished the lead. Throughout most of the set, both teams were trading point for point, thus making it tougher for Gahr to gain any type of edge.
Down by four points, Gahr made one last rally to get to within a point. A serve into the net, a kill from senior outside hitter Noah Lourenco and ace from junior outside hitter Corey Chavers made it 19-18. But the Tigers ended the set with five straight points, the last on a kill from Greg Luck, his sixth of the team’s 17 for the set.
Gahr was unable to lead in the second set but just like the first set, stayed right on the heels of South Pasadena. There were four ties and 12 times, the Gladiators were within a point. But with the score 20-18, Luck had a kill, followed by consecutive kills from 6’ 5” outside hitter Richard Minghoo Yu. After a Gahr timeout and a kill from Chavers, Yu had two more kills to put the Tigers in great shape. Through the first two sets, Luck and Yu had combined for 23 kills, three more than the entire Gahr team.
“I know that were really strong hitting on the outsides, so we practiced that,” Najera said. “We tried to defend it and we did the best we could, defending the outside.
“We did our best trying to block them; we did our best trying to defend them, and they’re good,” she continued.
Gahr played the Tigers even tougher in the third set and after consecutive kills from Chavers, had an 11-5 lead, it’s largest of the match. South Pasadena rallied to take an 18-16 lead and held a 20-17 advantage following a kill from Thomas Kutzer.
But Chavers took matters into his own hands with a kill, followed by an ace. A kill from Lourenco made it 21-20 and when Yu hit long, Gahr could sense the match being extended to a fourth set.
However, the Tigers got all of the Luck (no pun intended) they needed in the closing minutes with three kills, plus another from Yu. Those two ended the match with 31 combined kills and half of the team’s 10 blocks. Chavers led Gahr with 11 kills and seven digs while Lourenco added 10 kills. The Gladiators hit .136 as a team, less than half of what South Pasadena ended up with.
“We fight all set and then at the end, they just had a couple of tougher attacks,” Najera said. “We couldn’t catch any lucky breaks at the end.”
This was Gahr’s second trip to the divisional finals. In 2000, the Gladiators upset Mater Dei in five sets for the Division II crown. Even more noticeable is the fact that the San Gabriel Valley League is beginning to make some noise. Last season, Warren fell to South Torrance in the finals and in 2009, Downey took home the Division IV championship. Before that, the only other league team to even get to the finals was Gahr’s 2000 team.
“Our league is great,” Najera said. “I’m really happy with our team because volleyball traditionally is really strong in the beach cities and at the private schools. I’m really proud of the San Gabriel Valley League.”

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