South Pasadena High’s varsity boys’ volleyball team defeated the Gahr High School Gladiators in the Division 3 CIF Southern Section Championships on Saturday, repeating as champions for the second consecutive year.
Behind third-year coach Ben Diaz, the Tigers won in three straight games at the neutral Cerritos College gym. Gahr has now lost 9 consecutive games to the Tigers.
“I’m really proud of the team,” senior Noah Ashleigh said. “We have a lot of younger guys, and they really stepped up during the game.”
After fans on both sides were filed into their seats, the players were given standing ovations. In addition, the game was broadcast live on the internet for viewers at home to see.
Sophomore Greg Luck set the tone in the first set up with a nice kill, putting the Tigers up 1-0. The Gladiators responded and went up early, leading 5-2, only to lose the lead by impeccable play by Greg and Max Luck. JuniorRichard Yu began his monumental game with a set of back-to-back aces.
An exasperated Gahr team had to recollect itself after South Pas took a commanding 12-7 lead and called timeout. Yu continued to come up with big plays, racking up a tip and a big kill. Despite the Tigers’ stellar play, Gahr put together a respectable comeback. However, senior Julian Pina made sure the Gladiators wouldn’t garner further momentum and stuffed a Gahr player at the net. Greg Luck finished the set with a nice pair of kills, giving the Tigers a 25-19 first set victory.
“We played really well,” Max Luck said. “We came out hot, and they were fighting. We made a couple errors we shouldn’t have, missed some serves, but overall we played well.”
The Tigers continued where they left off in the second set and Greg Luck served an early ace, putting the Tigers up 3-1. Neither South Pas nor Gahr led by more than 2 during most of the set. Junior libero Alex Nakagawa had a pair of excellent saves, keeping the Tigers in the game. Gahr started to lose steam as Greg Luck and Yu exchanged kills, resulting in a Gladiator timeout. The timeout proved incapable of stalling the Tiger momentum and the Tigers went on to win the second set 25-20 and silenced the Gahr-dominated crowd.
“This is the best team I’ve played on,” Max Luck said, “I’m so proud of everybody.”
Gahr, down 2-0, knew it was do-or-die in the third and came out firing. A strong run by the Gladiators had them up 8-4. The Tigers played catch-up for most of the set and a superb kill from Max Luck closed the gap between the two teams, followed up by a Yu block. This point allowed the Tigers to pull ahead. Senior Thomas Kutzer had a kill of his own to help break open the Tigers’ lead, but it lasted only for a moment as Gahr managed to tie the game up at 22’s as the crowd erupted. After Gahr took a slight 23-22 lead, the Tigers retaliated with 3 straight points, highlighted by a Greg Luck kill to clinch the championship.
The Tigers now move on to CIF state playoffs, where they will compete for the title of best team in California. The playoff schedule will be announced in the coming days.
“We didn’t try to focus on the guys they had. We were just trying to play our best and do what we know we can,” Greg Luck said. “We were worried a little bit in the third set but it all came down to playing well. It feels great to be champs again.”
- Sub-Headline : Sets Sights on Winning State Championship
- ByLine : Text by Julian Prime Photos by Bill Glazier