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Santa Margarita Spots Royal Two, Takes Last Three

May 17, 2000|MIKE BESACK

The Royal High boys' volleyball team would have been better off if Santa Margarita had retreated to its team room to hit the showers after getting whipped in the first two games.

Instead, the Eagles came back fired up and turned around the Southern Section Division I second-round match.

Roles reversed suddenly, and the Highlanders squandered a two-game advantage in losing, 7-15, 10-15, 15-4, 15-12, 15-5, Tuesday night at Santa Margarita.

Royal (19-4) crushed the sleepwalking Eagles (14-5) in the first two games, dominating the block and taking advantage of hitting errors by Santa Margarita, the No. 6-ranked team in Orange County.

But after Eagle Coach Eddie Rapp took his squad into the team room, suddenly it was Santa Margarita that controlled the block, and it was the Highlanders who couldn't find the inside of the lines.

After cruising past Royal in the third game, Santa Margarita fell behind, 11-8, in the fourth game before coming back to force a final game.

By then the Eagles had found a solution for Royal outside hitters Casey Wilkinson and Kamil Kowalski and middle blocker David Russell, who had baffled them earlier.

With the momentum switched--and the home crowd behind them--the Eagles went ahead, 8-2, in the final game and never looked back.

"That's volleyball," said Highlander assistant coach Travis Ferguson. "It's a game of momentum and you just pray it doesn't switch on you."

Wilkinson had a match-high 29 kills, Russell had 21 and Kowalski added 20. While each were a major factor early, that wasn't the case later, when Santa Margarita redirected the play away from them.

Then, by the fourth game, hitting errors took their toll on Royal.

"Sometimes we get over-excited, and our nemesis all year has been hitting errors," Ferguson said. "In that third game, though, we really crushed ourselves."

Instead of putting the match away, Royal fell behind, 5-1, in the third game--all five Eagle points coming off Highlander errors.

Royal temporarily regrouped by the middle of the fourth game and took an 8-4 lead after a tip by Wilkinson. But Santa Margarita scored four consecutive points and eventually won the game.

"This was a crazy match, as good a high school volleyball match as you'll ever see," Ferguson said.

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