LANCASTER — There were a few certainties entering the match between Littlerock and Eastside.
Quartz Hill had already clinched the top seed in the Golden League as the Rebels are undefeated in league play and have not dropped a set.
AV High and Lancaster will finish as the second and third seeds. And Knight and Palmdale were already sitting with 5-7 records, vying for the fourth automatic playoff bid.
The Lobos had an opportunity to join the Hawks and Falcons, but the Lions stood in their way.
Eastside kept Littlerock out of a tie for fourth place with an impressive 25-14, 25-18, 20-25, 29-27 victory Monday evening at Eastside High School.
“It was an amazing game for us tonight. We didn’t have practice (last) Thursday or Friday so I didn’t know what to expect. In the fourth set I asked them to show me that they wanted to play. They kind of relaxed when we got ahead,” Lions head coach Francis Bosque said. “We were the spoiler for them tonight and we kind of did them wrong. We can be the spoiler for other teams or just let the season end. Tonight’s game was just the icing on the cake.”
With two matches remaining this week to end the season the Lobos dropped one full game behind Knight and Palmdale. Littlerock (12-10, 4-8), which entered the match ranked in the top 10 in CIF-Southern Section Division 6, faces AV High and Highland. The Lions play the ’Lopes and Lancaster.
Should Littlerock not finish in the top four spots in league, it can still earn an at-large bid for the playoffs based on its record.
After winning the first two set rather easily, the Lions had a hiccup in the third as the Lobos entered the fourth with momentum.
After the Lobos took an early 5-3 lead, Eastside (13-14, 3-9) rallied by winning the next five consecutive points. Those points came following two aces by Juan Morales, one kill and one block by Jose Gomez and one kill and one block from Kevin Bare Hudson.
The Lions held a 14-10 lead before Littlerock promptly won the next nine of 11 points to claim a 19-16 lead. The Lobos kept the pressure on after winning three straight points following two kills by Luke Berkowitz and another by Melvin Rivera to take a 24-20 lead and set point.
“The first set we definitely lost and we came alive in the second. We made too many mistakes in the beginning. In volleyball you live and die with the pass. At key times we just couldn’t get it to our setter,” Littlerock head coach Nick Morris said. “You have to give it up to coach Bosque. Eastside always has been the best passing team in league, no matter what their record.”
After trailing by four points, Eastside finally regained its energy and fed the hot hand of Morales, who had three consecutive kills and an assisted block as the Lions had match point at 25-24.
The Lobos staved off two match points and even took a 27-26 lead, hoping to send it to a fifth set. The Lions wouldn’t be denied and won three consecutive points as a net touch by the Lobos sealed the match.
“I notice about this team that when we’re losing the whole team is down. We were able to keep the energy today. In the first and second set we showed the potential we have and how we can really play,” Gomez said. “We just had to keep a positive attitude. We knew Littlerock had a chance for CIF and hopefully we knocked them off. We wanted to end our losing streak too.”
The victory ended the Lions’ 6-match losing streak.
Gomez led Eastside with 13 kills and added three blocks. Morales had 12 kills and teammate Joan Perez added four kills, three aces and two blocks.
Isaac Angulo led the Lobos with nine kills and six blocks. Berkowitz finished with seven kills and four blocks and Chris Trasvina had five kills and five blocks. The Lobos had five players with five kills or more.
“We definitely overlooked them. We didn’t get our motor started until the third set, but we still fought,” Angulo said. “As soon as we got on the court our energy should have been there. This is a miserable loss for us. But I know we can bounce back from this. We have all season.”