LANCASTER – The wacky, wacky Golden League got even wackier.
It’s evident that Quartz Hill is the team to beat, however, this year AV High, Lancaster and the rest are lobbying for position among the top teams.
So both Eastside and Lancaster entered Friday night’s match looking to keep pace with the Rebels and ’Lopes.
It took all of five sets and nearly two hours, but the Eagles created a bit of separation with a thrilling 25-12, 24-26, 25-12, 22-25, 15-7 victory over the Lions at Lancaster High School.
With the victory, Lancaster (6-14, 4-2) secured sole possession of third place behind 5-1 AV High and 6-0 Quartz Hill. Eastside dropped to 2-4 in league and with Knight’s victory over Highland, the Hawks are tied with Palmdale with 3-3 records after the Falcons lost to the Rebels.
Lancaster junior varsity pullup Keyrondo Dolberry looked more like a seasoned veteran than someone who was playing on the lower level team days ago. The junior finished with 12 kills and six blocks, four of those kills coming in the final set, which helped his team pull away.
“Take nothing away from Eastside because they played a great game. We had our lapses in the second and fourth sets. We weren’t focused on the present and we were looking ahead to the future. We can’t be a future team,” Dolberry said. “There were a few things we could have done better. To us, we want to make the playoffs. I think in the fifth set we got back in the right mind set and we realized how important this match was.”
The Eagles cruised in the first set and looked as though they might make quick work of the Lions (12-9, 2-4). Eastside, however, gained momentum in the second set. Lancaster looked to take a 2-0 lead and had set point, 24-20, in the second.
A seemingly harmless service error by the Eagles still only cut the lead to 24-21 as the Lions gained the side out. Two hitting errors by Lancaster and an ace by Joan Perez tied the score 24-24. A block by Eastside followed by another error by the Eagles evened the match at one set each.
“We gave them constant reminders of what we needed to do. When they got points, they got them on things we didn’t practice. We can’t get caught up in things we don’t do. We just have to stick to the things we do,” Lancaster head coach Alfredo Garcia said. “We need to evaluate if we got better tonight. Our goal is to get better than we were the day before. If we go back and say yes then I’ll be happy. I can say that we had mental toughness in the fifth and did what we needed to do.”
After regaining the dominance it showed in the first set, the Lions fought back in the fourth. Eastside held a slim 18-17 lead before reeling off six consecutive points to distance itself with a 24-17 lead. Much like the Eagles did in the second set, the Lions had trouble putting them away.
Lancaster rallied and scored the next five points to cut the lead to 24-22. The Lions were able to hold on to force a deciding set following a ball that was hit into the net by the Eagles.
“We could have done more. We let the mistakes get to us. At times it felt like nobody really wanted to play. But when the points started coming back to us, we got our energy back,” said Eastside’s Edwin Rivera. “Before we got to Lancaster we were hyped, but when we got here it was like, ‘Where was the hype?’ This is a tough loss for us. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”
Rivera was one of six players with at least five kills for the Lions. Rivera and Kevin Bare Hudson (five kills) led Eastside with five blocks each. Lancaster had five players with at least five kills. Alex Luria finished with a match-high 21 kills and teammate Kevin Portillo (seven kills) added four blocks.
The fifth belonged to Dolberry and the Eagles. The set went back and forth as the teams split the first 12 points. After Lancaster pulled away briefly with an 8-6 lead, Dolberry had four consecutive kills to give his team a 12-6 lead.
“Right now the only thing on their mind is spring break. They just want to sit around and watch. I still haven’t found a consistent rotation,” Lions head coach Francis Bosque said. “I’ve seen more dinking from this team. They don’t want to hit the ball. We can continue to play mediocre volleyball or see if someone wants to play and show up.”