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The first day of the Moore League boys’ volleyball season pitted a pair of freshman stars against each other as defending league champion Lakewood welcomed in Long Beach Poly for what ended up being a crazy match. The Jackrabbits’ Nico Iamaleava had an impressive league debut and helped to lead a shorthanded Poly team to a win, 28-30, 27-25, 28-26, 25-23.
“We’re missing two starters so this is the one that’s been stressing me out,” said Poly coach Vuthy Cheav. “This gives us confidence to beat a defending league champion without those guys, this means a lot to the program.”
The Jackrabbits were without Long Beach State signee Matt Iamaleava, a transfer from Redondo Union who’s out for another three weeks because of the CIF-SS sit out period rule. They were also without key starter Sam Miller because of a class trip to New York. Even without the services of the 6-5 and 6-4 starters, Poly looked crisp.
Nico Iamaleava had 18 kills, 11 digs, three blocks, and two aces in his league debut, as he impressed at outside hitter.
“It was exciting, this was our first big game with a crowd like that,” he said. “We can get better, we just have to stay calm, not get too down after a mistake.”
There were plenty of high and low points for both teams. Poly led 24-22 in the first set but Lakewood came back thanks to tremendous setting from freshman Reggie Ah Hong, who looks like a future star as well with 44 assists in his debut. The Lancers deuced the set, fought off three set points, then won it 30-28 on a kill from Ahloe Feomaia.
Poly led 24-23 in the second set before a kill from Feomaia helped Lakewood to a 2-0 run and a 25-24 lead. But the Jackrabbits got the next three kills, including two from Iamaleava, to win it 27-25.
The third set looked like it would be a little less dramatic as the Jackrabbits went on a 5-0 run with Iamaleava serving to take a 24-18 lead. But Lakewood got a 7-0 service run from Khalil Farr to actually take a 25-24 lead, which the Jackrabbits eventually overcome to win the set 28-26.
Poly setter Nathan Cheav had 47 assists in the match for Poly.
“We knew we’d be missing players today and need to rely on the younger players, and they came through,” said Cheav.
First-year Lancers coach Jeriel Apiar wasn’t displeased with his team’s performance, but wanted to see more consistency, especially late in sets.
“The energy was like a rollercoaster,” he said. “At this level it’s hard to keep it even but we need to get better at that. We can get better at everything, we’re a young team.”
The Lancers got 15 kills from Feomaia and 11 from Kameron Tufuga.