HomeBlocksFront-TopBoys' Volleyball: Lightning Crashes on Titans First CIF Finals Appearance

Boys’ Volleyball: Lightning Crashes on Titans First CIF Finals Appearance

The San Marino High boys’ volleyball team had done the work and reached the CIF Southern Section Division V championship match, and the only thing left was to claim the top prize against fellow finalist Sage Hill School of Newport Beach.

The Titans started strong, but the Lightning struck back and eventually forced a fifth game.

The two teams traded punches in the deciding game, but Sage Hill survived, quashing San Marino’s title hopes as the Titans lost, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22, 18-25, 13-15, in the Division V championship at Cerritos College on May 11.

“It came down to two points at the end of the day,” San Marino coach Tony Chou said. “I’m glad we got to play on this stage and I’m really more thankful than anything that the seniors got this experience.”

It was a rough start to the fifth game for San Marino as Sage Hill embarked on a 6-1 run that included four kills by the Lightning’s 6-foot-10 powerhouse Jackson Cryst. Trailing 11-6, the Titans fought themselves back into the decisive game. It started with a kill from the backline by Casey Chan. Next came a kill on the outside by Ryan Wang off an assist by Ryan Lee. Cryst then hit long, after which Titan Jeffery Li made a block in the middle to pull San Marino to within one.

Cryst got a kill from the backline for a little breathing room, but Ryan Wang scored another kill to pull back to within one again at 12-11. San Marino committed a service error to push the Lightning back to a two-point cushion. Freshman Zach Fong then pulled the Titans back within one at 13-12 with a kill from the outside on the left. Cryst responded with a score on the outside to bring up match point. Sage Hill pulled one back with a violation at the net, and Cryst followed with a deciding kill from the outside off the Titan block to cash in on match point and secure the Division V title.

“Heartbreaking,” Titans junior Luca Moggio said. “We really gave it our all. We started that fifth set off really poorly, but we really brought it back. I’m proud of how everyone played. I’m so happy to be on this team.”

San Marino (26-7-1 overall) was the No. 4-ranked team in Division V, while Sage Hill (21-8) was unranked in the playoffs.

The Titans reached the final after sweeping aside every opponent. San Marino started its CIF run with a sweep of Oakwood in the opener, followed by straight-set victories against Glendale Adventist and El Rancho. San Marino topped No. 8 Rio Mesa in the semifinal to book a spot in the title match.

Meanwhile, Sage Hill reached the championship match after knocking off No. 10 Fullerton in the opener, No. 7 Camarillo in the second round, No. 2 Rancho Verde in the quarterfinal and Flintridge Prep in the semifinal. 

It was an appropriate end for the Lightning, as Cryst was nearly a one-man wrecking crew on offense for Sage Hill. The junior, who sat out the early stages of the season after transferring in from Long Beach Millikan, had 53 kills. The rest of the Lightning combined for 14. Cryst had nine kills in game one, 12 in the second game, nine in game three, 13 in the fourth and 10 in the fifth.

Photo by Nathan Cambridge / The Titans were bestowed with the runner-up plaque following their five-match thriller against Sage Hill in the CIF-SS Division V championship match on May 11.

“We knew they had one really, really good player,” Li said. “Our game plan was to stop him all [match]. Unfortunately, it kind of stopped working. I’m just so proud of everyone — the way we got here in general. It was a really good game.”

In contrast, San Marino got offensive production from several sources, led by Chan with 17 kills. Outsider hitter Ryan Wang finished with 11 kills, as did Moggio in the middle. Fellow middle blocker Li, a senior, had eight kills. Fong had five kills and an ace. Hunter Piccinini had a single kill and an ace.

“Making it all the way to the championship [game] was a really great experience,” Ryan Wang, a senior, said. “Although it was a sad loss, it was so close. I think we could have, should have won, but it was a wonderful experience.”

The Lightning, the Pacific Hills League No. 2 entry, have the title and San Marino, co-champions of the Rio Hondo League, will have to settle for the very real accomplishment of being finalists and finishing as the runners-up in Division V.

“It’s the first time in school history,” setter Jared Wang said the depth of the Titan postseason run. “[We had hoped] to go further, but it’s a really great feeling right now.”

In game one, the Lightning scored first, but the Titans scored the next four on a kill in the middle by Moggio, a mishit by Cryst, a Sage Hill lift and a kill by Ryan Wang on a push shot. San Marino never trailed again in the opener, with the Titan lead peaking at eight. A violation at the net by Sage Hill brought up game point at 24-17, but the Lighting prolonged the game with a Cryst kill and an ace before an emphatic kill by Moggio in the middle secured the game one win for the Titans.

Sage Hill led game two from start to finish, with the Lightning advantage peaking at six three times. Consecutive kills by Cryst brought up the first game point at 24-19. Thanks to a kill by Ryan Wang and back-to-back hitting errors by Cryst, the Titans hung in until the fourth game point, when a Titan attacker on the outside hit the ball wide to end the game at 25-22.

The third game was tied seven times — the first time at two points after an ace by Zach Fong, then at eight after back-to-back blocks by Chan and Moggio. The teams were also tied at 10, 14 and 18. Following the tussle, the Titans took the lead for the first time when the Lightning were called for a lift and Chan followed that up with a kill from the outside. The Lightning battled back to tie it at 21-21, but Moggio responded with a kill. Cryst tied it again with a kill from the backline, only to see the Titans score the final three points. It started with a kill by Fong on the outside that landed in the deep corner, followed by a two-touch call on Sage Hill and the finisher on a kill from the outside by Ryan Wang.

Photo by Nathan Cambridge / Titans boys’ volleyball player Luca Moggio (32) greets the crowd at Cerritos College before the CIF-SS Division V title game.

Sage Hill never trailed in game four. The game was tied at 7-7 before the Lightning seized control with a 6-0 run. The final points of the fourth game came on consecutive kills by Cryst to set the final margin of seven and force the fifth game tiebreaker.

“[The Titans] were smart — they were really smart,” Sage Hill coach Shelby Young said. “They were able to play a lot of defense. They were able to adjust around our block. They were able to run different positions. Of course we scouted a little bit, but they were able to execute that a little bit more efficiently than maybe we had expected and they were a great team. They were very scrappy. They were all over the place and I think they have a lot of heart. They had a lot of fight.”

First published in the May 16 issue of the San Marino Tribune


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