CERRITOS — The Quartz Hill boys volleyball team had a strong start and finish to their championship match Saturday afternoon at Cerritos College.

Unfortunately, Peninsula dominated the middle of the match and held on in the fourth set to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship match in four sets, 18-25, 25-18, 25-12, 27-25.

Quartz Hill (34-8) was trying to win its second CIF championship and was making its first title game appearance since 2015.

“I thought we played like we put our hearts on the court, but the team just outplayed us,” said Quartz Hill senior Nathan Merren, a four-year varsity player. “We did all we could to try and get it up. We won the first set, which is pretty big, knowing that they haven’t dropped a set all their playoff run. Then that last set, I’m really proud of my team, because we came up from a (22-16) deficit and we pushed it to overtime. We didn’t quite get the win, but I still think my try as hard as they could.

“We made it this far and this is the farthest that I’ve ever gone in CIF, so it’s something to be proud of no matter what.”

The Rebels came tantalizingly close to forcing a fifth set, forcing the Panthers (23-13) into extra points before they clinched set and match point.

Peninsula kept its momentum going in the fourth sets, taking a 3-2 lead and led by as many as seven points, 19-12, before the Rebels began to battle their way back.

The Panthers had a 22-16 before the Rebels answered with a 7-1 run to tie the set at 23-23.

Merren had two of his team-high 19 kills during the extra points, but Peninsula clinched set and match point on its third attempt.

“Super tough,” Quartz Hill coach Ryan Kachold said. “I tell them that we could have come here and got blown out, but we showed everybody that our team can compete with that team. 

“We were down six, seven points in that fourth set and we took it to extra points. That’s the kind of thing I’m proud about, because as a coach, the sport is temporary. You can’t play sports forever. One of the reasons you coach, I know one of the reasons I got involved, is trying to teach these young men some skills about perseverance and managing adversity. Because I truly believe that high school sports is a great way to teach young men how to handle adversity. These guys had a great lesson today in dealing with pressure and managing adversity and I was happy, because they took that fourth set to extra points when they had no business doing it. They were down two sets.”

Kachold won a title as a member of the Quartz Hill team in 2008.

“We broke a barrier this year and got back to the finals and we hadn’t done that since 2015,” Kachold said. “This team we played they are extremely good and we played with them and that’s all that really matters to me. We showed that we could come in here and play with these guys.”

Quartz Hill lost to El Segundo in the CIF championship match in 2015, in five sets.

“We came out strong in the beginning and we finished strong in the end and that’s all you can ask for,” said Quartz Hill senior setter Zac Conte, who finished with 31 assists. “Some stuff didn’t go our way. The other team is a very good team and they did some stuff that we didn’t adjust to necessarily. I’m so proud of everyone on the team. It was a great season, a great run and I could not be more proud of everyone.

“Right now the emotions of the game have taken over, but like I said, this is a great team and we’ve had a great run and a great season. We fought back from many deficits in the past couple of CIF matches. We have fight in us and I think we showed that in the last set and in the first set. I think that’s what matters.”

Conte, a third-year varsity player, is one of seven seniors for Quartz Hill.

The two teams traded leads early in the first set, with both showing a little nerves with service violations.

The Rebels built a nine-point lead after taking a 3-2 lead, prompting the Peninsula to take two early timeouts.

After Quartz Hill built its lead to as much as 10 points, 16-6, the Panthers cut it to as little as seven twice.

The Rebels again took a 10-point lead, 22-12, on a block by Carlos Centeno and Nolan Taflinger.

Quartz Hill got key blocks from Centeno and Sartaj Brar before having set point four times before clinching the opening set on an error by Peninsula.

Centeno finished with six kills and Brar had five.

The Rebels had a 7-6 lead early in the second set before Peninsula tied it and took an 8-7 lead on an ace by Godbold, who finished with 19 kills, three aces, two blocks and six digs.

The Panthers built a 14-10 lead, leading the Rebels to take their first timeout of the match.

Back-to-back kills by Godbold gave Peninsula an 18-11 lead and another Rebels’ timeout.

The Rebels could only pull to within five points before the Panthers clinched the set.

The two teams exchanged four lead changes to start the third set.

Quartz Hill appeared to have tied the set at 5-5 on a kill by Centeno, when an official at the scorer’s table ruled a missed rotation violation on Quartz Hill and giving the Panthers a 6-4 lead after a prolonged discussion.

Peninsula clearly gained momentum from the point swing and continued to pull away to clinch the set and a 2-1 advantage in the match. The Panthers got key kills by Godbold, Elijah Riley and Matt Lee.

“That team had one player that was incredibly good, (junior Clarke Godbold),” Kachold said. “(Godbold) is the one that beat us and he was the guy going in who we knew we had to contain No. 12. We had a game plan to control 12, but that guy is a very high caliber player and he just got away from us there at the end.”

It was the first CIF championship for Peninsula.

“We just trust each other and that was a moment to trust each other,” Peninsula coach Kurt Barcenilla said.

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