Mira Costa High volleyball Coach Mike Cook liked what he saw Friday night. For awhile, anyway.
Cook said the Mustangs played the best they have all season in winning the first game, 15-2, and grabbing a 9-3 lead in the second game against visiting Rio Mesa of Oxnard.
Just as quickly, though, the magic was gone. Rio Mesa came back to win the second game, but Mira Costa recovered nicely in the third and fourth games to post a hard-fought 15-2, 10-15, 15-10, 15-11 victory in the first round of the Southern Section 4-A Division playoffs.
Cook was encouraged by the Mustangs' early brilliance, but disappointed that they were unable to sustain it.
"In the first game and the first half of the second game we played like a team that could win the CIF championship, without a doubt," he said. "After that, we reverted to what has been typical Mira Costa play this year. We made a lot of mistakes which allowed the other team to play with us."
Cook said the Mustangs can't afford any letdowns in their second-round match at 7:30 Tuesday night against Woodbridge of Irvine at Mira Costa. The Warriors, who were ranked No. 3 in the division before having to forfeit two matches because of an ineligible player, beat Mira Costa, 15-7, April 27 in the Redondo-Mira Costa tournament and opened the playoffs with a convincing 15-7, 15-13, 15-7 victory over Santa Margarita.
"If we play like we did in the first game and a half against Rio Mesa, we'll win," Cook said. "If we play like we did in the last two and a half games, we'll lose."
Mira Costa's play in the early going Friday was reminiscent of last year's team, which went 22-0 and captured the CIF and mythical national titles.
"It was a sight to behold," Cook said. "My coaches and I were looking at each other and saying, 'Hey, this is what we've been waiting for.' That's why it was so disappointing to see that disintegration."
Cook said the play of middle blockers Scott Letourneau and Mark Pioch was instrumental against Rio Mesa, which boasted a talented middle man of its own in Luiz Villaca, a 6-foot-7 exchange student from Brazil. The 6-5 Letourneau had seven kills and six blocks and Pioch had 12 kills and four blocks.
"The middle played magnificently," Cook said.
Others who contributed to the victory were outside hitters Mark Shoptaw (22 kills, six jump-serving aces), Cameron Green (12 kills) and Neal O'Brien (nine digs) and sophomore setter Zane Smythe, who set the middle effectively.
"They've tasted something really good," Cook said of his players. "Now if they can just sustain it. Whatever happens from here, it's in the hands of the players. As coaches, we've brought them as far as we can bring them. Now it's up to them."
Pacific League champion Banning is the No. 1 seed for the L.A. City 4-A Division baseball playoffs, but the Pilots sure didn't play like it Thursday.
San Pedro routed the Pilots, 12-2, in a league finale to give Pirate Coach Jerry Lovarov his 400th career victory in 31 seasons.
"We rolled over and played dead," said Banning Coach Syl Saavedra, whose team finished the regular season with a 17-6 record, 15-2 in league play. "I guess the idea of being league champs and being seeded No. 1 caused us to look ahead to Wednesday's game."
Banning will open the playoffs at 3 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Monday's wild-card game between Van Nuys and Westchester.
Thursday's loss was reminiscent of the way the 1990 season ended for the Pilots. After already clinching the league title, Banning lost to Carson and was then upset at home in a playoff opener by Palisades.
Saavedra said he hasn't let his players, most of whom were on last year's varsity team, forget the disappointing way the 1990 season ended.
"I've been talking about it all year; that's my rallying point," he said. "We didn't do well (in the playoffs) last year because we were young. Now we have a lot of veterans on the team. We're going to be all right."
Right-handed pitcher Mike Busby (9-0, nine complete games) will start the playoff opener as Banning attempts to become the first non-San Fernando Valley school to win the City major division title since 1973.
The other seeded 4-A teams, in order, are East Valley League champion Sylmar, Western League champion University and West Valley League champion Chatsworth.
Narbonne is another South Bay school considered a contender for a City baseball title. The Gauchos (18-7) are the No. 2 seed in the 3-A Division playoffs and play host to Huntington Park on Wednesday.
Northeast League champion Wilson is the No. 1 seed, with Southeastern League champion South Gate seeded No. 3 and Metro League champion Fairfax seeded No. 4.
Rolling Hills baseball Coach Garry Poe knew it was coming, but he admitted he wasn't fully prepared for the emotions that took over Friday after Rolling Hills and Palos Verdes competed against each other for the last time in athletics.
The two schools and Miraleste will consolidate in the fall, forming Palos Verdes Peninsula High on the Rolling Hills campus.