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For the second time in consecutive games, the Saddleback Valley Christian boys volleyball team found themselves with their backs against the wall in a huge CIF playoff moment.
After dropping the first two sets to visiting Bishop’s School on May 21 in the first round of the CIF Southern California Division 3 Regional Championships the Warriors rallied back to win three sets in a row and earn a berth in the regional semifinals.
The win over Bishop’s kept the Warriors five-set undefeated streak intact. The team has been pushed to five sets three times this season and has yet to lose.
It was also the second time in four days the Warriors won in five sets in come from behind fashion.
On May 18 the team captured the school’s first ever CIF-SS Division 5 title and they did it by overcoming a 2-1 set deficit.
The story was much of the same against Bishop’s only this time the odds against Saddleback Valley Christian were even greater, as the health of standout freshman setter Noah Dyer was a question mark heading into the match. Dyer sprained his ankle in the CIF-SS title game but suited up and played a good majority of the match against Bishop’s. Dyer would end up with 10 kills on the night.
Dyer and the rest of the Warriors were thrown off their game in the first set by Bishop’s serving game. The visitors from La Jolla went wire to wire in the first set, tallying four aces, for a 25-19 win.
The second set was more competitive, as senior middle blocker Nick Worrell began his high level of play with a three-block, two-kill effort in the set. After a block by Worrell put the Warriors up 23-22, Bishop’s went on a 3-0 run to take the set 25-23.
Bishop’s Scott McPherson fueled the offense and he wreaked havoc on the Warriors in the first two sets, tallying 10 kills and an ace.
“All the little things that we normally do well, like pass in system and keep in system, we couldn’t do at all the whole game,” Warriors head coach Ryan Van Rensselaer said of his team’s early efforts. “We couldn’t stop (McPherson)…but it was more of us than them.”
From there the Warriors made a concerted effort to stifle McPherson and the team’s big players up front, led by Worrell, were up to the task.
With Worrell bottling up the middle at the net and the emergence of Dyer as an offensive weapon in the third set, the Warriors opened up a late lead and took the set 25-19.
The Warriors dominated the fifth and final set, highlighted by three straight blocks by Worrell that pushed the score to 7-1. Worrell would finish the night with 10 kills, six aces and eight blocks.
Van Rensselaer accredited the team’s sluggish start in the win to their CIF-SS title winning performance on May 18. After working towards capturing the Southern Section title all season long, Van Rensselaer thought his team seemed uninspired heading into the regional stage.
In the team’s practice on May 20 Van Rensselaer noticed a different, unfocused team out on the court. He stopped practice for 30 minutes so they could all get together and set new goals.
“There was no fire. I ended up taking almost a half hour off just to say, ‘Let’s talk. If we don’t get our heads straight and our hearts straight we don’t have a chance’,” Van Rensselaer recalled. “It was tough to mentally get focused but now… they’re in the fight… a state championship is real.”
The Warriors were set to play No. 1 seeded Francis Parker in the semifinals on May 23. Results were not available at press time. For updates on the Warriors progress through the regionals visit www.thecapistranodispatch.com