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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Crespi Keeps the Faith, Takes Over First Place

Volleyball: Celts, who appear to be surprise of Mission League, defeat Loyola, 15-10, 15-6, 7-15, 15-11.

April 22, 1998|MIKE BRESNAHAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nobody could have ever predicted this.

Unless they were wearing a Crespi High uniform.

The Celts defeated Loyola, 15-10, 15-6, 7-15, 15-11, in a Mission League boys' volleyball match Tuesday night at Loyola, leaving Crespi alone at the top of the league standings.

Crespi appears to be the biggest surprise of the season, though two of its heaviest hitters, James Spratt and Kevin Scully, knew what few others did--a league title was possible.

"Sure I had thoughts about it," said Spratt, who had 19 kills.

"I knew that Loyola and Harvard-Westlake were a little down and I thought we had a chance to do better. For our program, this is a complete turnaround."

Said Scully, who had 13 kills: "I did see that. I had faith in my team."

Faith, great blocking and solid serving had carried the Celts (10-1, 7-1 in league play) into the crucial rematch with Loyola.

The Celts, who looked listless in a four-game loss at home to Loyola last month, outblocked the Cubs this time, 17-8, and kept Loyola's passers off-kilter all night with better serving.

Matt Miller had three aces to start the fourth game, putting the brakes on any speed gained by Loyola in a convincing victory in the third game.

"This is one of the best serving years we've ever had," said Miller, a senior.

It is easily the best Crespi team since the 1989 squad led by Ken Lynch, who went on to become a standout at Cal State Northridge.

The Celts defeated Harvard-Westlake two weeks ago for the first time since 1989, and on Tuesday, put the clamps on Loyola (8-4, 6-2), which has one of the best juniors in the nation in 6-foot-8 Curt Toppel.

Toppel had 15 kills and 11 hitting errors.

"We stuffed Toppel a couple of times," Spratt said. "Big momentum builders there."

Toppel is one of several underclassmen for Loyola, which starts three juniors, two sophomores and a senior.

"Too young," Loyola Coach Bill Griebenow said. "Watch out for us next year."

Griebenow was impressed with the difference between the Celts in March and the Celts in April.

"Crespi came back a lot stronger this time," he said. "They're the team to beat in league right now."

The Celts have four league matches left, including the regular-season finale against Harvard-Westlake, but nobody seems to be counting.

"This is a high for us, but we'll come down quickly," Scully said. "If we don't, we get smacked by a meager team. If we look too far ahead, that's not our mentality."

Jonathan Bird had three blocks to help Crespi to a good start in the first game, and Taylor Steadman finished with seven blocks, including three in the third game, for the Celts.

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