It took two games for the Taft High boys' volleyball team to get on track Thursday night, but once it did it rolled over defending champion Palisades, 11-15, 12-15, 15-12, 15-13, 15-4, in a City Championship quarterfinal at Taft.
The second-seeded Toreadors (13-1) led 11-7 in the first game and 12-6 in the second before losing, forcing them to win the final three games to advance.
"We've blown big leads before," Taft Coach Doug Magorien said. "But normally we pull them out at the end. This time they came up with four or five stuff blocks in a row and we lost our composure."
The tide turned in the third game, when Magorien gambled by inserting reserve sophomore Cecil Brown at middle blocker.
"I knew that decision would either win it for us or lose it for us," Magorien said. "But I had to take a chance because our other guy [Anthony Sharp] wasn't matching up. The momentum changed when [Brown] came in."
Brown, the leading scorer on Taft's basketball team, had never played volleyball until joining the Toreadors midway through the season. He finished with seven kills, but it was his five blocks that made the difference--forcing Palisades to attack from the wing instead of down the middle.
Mike Gledhill led Taft with 19 kills and six blocks, Brandon Brown had 15 kills and Bryan Capper had 10 kills. Setter Andrew Reback had 32 assists.
"We kept telling ourselves we could do it, even when we were down," said Gledhill, who ended the match with a jump-serve winner. "We have a lot of respect for Palisades. We knew they were a lot better than their ranking."
Rob Nielson, who will set for Brigham Young next year, led 10th-seeded Palisades (10-5) with 27 kills and six blocks. Shane McNair and Ian Wolterstorff each added 10 kills for the Dolphins, who beat Taft in the City final last year.
"This isn't the way you want to end your season, but we fought hard," Palisades Coach Dave Suarez said. "If a few breaks go our way, we take it in three or four games. But you have to give Taft credit for coming back."