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Motivated Taft Blisters Poly, Earns Rematch

City volleyball: Toreadors will face Monroe in final after storming back from second-game loss.


WOODLAND HILLS — Mental toughness. That's what could propel Taft High's volleyball team to a City title.

Armed with a group of players that respond when challenged, the Toreadors knocked off visiting Poly, 15-8, 14-16, 15-6, 15-6, on Tuesday in a City Championship semifinal match.

Mike Gledhill, a 6-foot-5 junior, had 21 kills, and senior Brandon Brown had 18 kills and 10 blocks and the Toreadors (14-1) earned a championship rematch on Friday at Cal State Northridge against Monroe, the only team to defeat Taft this season.

"We love to win, but not as much as we hate to lose," Gledhill said of the Toreadors' motivation.

After Poly (13-2) overcame a 14-12 deficit and won the second game, it only infuriated the Toreadors.

Brown, Gledhill and sophomore Bryan Capper, who had 10 kills, helped Taft surge to an 11-2 lead in the third game. During one stretch, Glendhill and Brown recorded consecutive blocks, Gledhill had a kill and Capper had a block to highlight a 6-0 run.

Poly, with a starting lineup that included only one senior, became frustrated as the match progressed. The youthful Parrots counted on junior Miguel Ramos, the best leaper on the court. He had 16 kills.

But except for mental errors in the second game, the Toreadors were in complete control.

"This team has character," Taft Coach Doug Magorien said. "One of the guys said, 'When we're down two games to none and down, 10-0, in the third game, then I'll start to worry.'

"We've had a tough draw [in the playoffs], but we're stronger for it."

Gledhill, a top candidate for City player of the year, started fast, contributing six kills and three blocks in a dominating first-game performance.

The Toreadors received a boost from reserve setter Erwin Yi, whose short sets made Brown most effective in the latter games.

Now the Toreadors get to focus on Monroe, the tournament's top-seeded team.

"If anybody beats Monroe, it will be an upset," Poly Coach John Ford said.

Kennedy d. Canoga Park, 15-6, 15-9, 15-5--Andrew Choy had 14 kills and Andy Pong added 10 to lead the top-seeded Golden Cougars in a City Division semifinal over Canoga Park (9-7) at Kennedy.

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