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Highland Swept By Superior Loyola

Boys' volleyball: Passing errors lead to Bulldogs' 15-8, 15-7, 15-12 loss in Division I second-round match.


PALMDALE — In didn't happen in a flash--90 minutes could hardly be called a moment's time--but Highland High's undefeated season went from endangered to expired Tuesday night.

Poised to make one of their best playoff runs since Ryan Millar graduated in 1995, the Bulldogs instead ran into Loyola and lost, 15-8, 15-7, 15-12, in the second round of the Southern Section Division I boys' volleyball playoffs at Highland.

The Bulldogs (14-1) dissolved amid a plethora of passing woes and Loyola (19-2), seeded No. 4, won with relative ease.

Only the third game--in which Highland cut into a 7-0 deficit and pulled within 13-11--contained any real drama.

But Loyola, steadier in defense and offense, will face either Mira Costa or Arcadia in the quarterfinals Friday.

"We lost our passing tonight," said Coach Tom Jones of Highland. "Guys I normally rely on couldn't pass the ball."

Highland middle blockers Mike Kennedy (11 kills) and Trent Sorensen (eight kills) had their moments, but Loyola outblocked the Bulldogs, 13-7.

"We had a pretty good read on them," said Coach Mike Boehle of Loyola. "We knew where they were hitting the ball 95-100% of the time."

Highland finally began to emerge in the third game, going on an 11-6 run to pull within 13-11. But two late kills by Eric Locko helped finish the match.

Perhaps the Bulldogs were still bothered by a 15-6, 15-10 loss to Loyola at the Dos Pueblos tournament in March.

"I don't know if they [still] intimidated us," Kennedy said. "We tried to get it back, but it was a little too late. We wanted to prove to everybody that didn't believe in us, but we just had too many problems."

Outside hitter Jon Moser started at setter for the first time this season for Highland. He was replaced in the third game by the regular starter, Noel Cruz, and moved back to outside hitter.

"It was a tough choice for me," Jones said, citing inconsistent play by Cruz in a first-round victory over Simi Valley for the change. "I'm going to be second-guessed, but that was my gut feeling."

The Bulldogs concluded their best season since the senior year of Millar, now a member of the U.S. national team.

Loyola has boasted plenty of talent in recent years--Curt Toppel was a second-team All-American as a freshman at Stanford this season--but this year's team is different.

What the Cubs lack in physical ability, they make up for with desire.

Derek Otte delivered 12 kills and T.J. Young, who has committed to UC Santa Barbara, added 10 for Loyola.

"We're not as talented, but we want it," Boehle said.


VOLLEYBALL ROUNDUP: Royal squandered a 2-0 lead in a five-game loss to Santa Margarita in a Division I playoff match Tuesday.

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