Long Beach Poly Volleyball

CIF Volleyball: Long Beach Poly Swept in Quarterfinals By South Torrance

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The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

It was a successful season for the Long Beach Poly girls’ volleyball team, but it came to an end a little earlier than the Jackrabbits would have preferred. Poly’s excellent turnaround 2023 campaign came to a conclusion on Wednesday evening at South Torrance, as a talented and well-coached Spartans team was too much for the visitors in a 25-23, 25-16, 25-22 sweep.

Poly (27-8) finished as co-Moore League champions and CIF-SS quarterfinalists for the first time in a decade, just one season after finishing fourth in league. Jackrabbits coach Gerald Aquiningoc said that the loss still stung, despite his team’s accomplishments.

“If you’d asked me in the beginning of the season about league and the quarterfinals, I would have said, ‘Oh man, I’d be really happy with that,’” said Aquiningoc. “But we talked all year about exceeding expectations. And because we did that all year, I wanted more for them–we were seeded third, so the new expectation was to make it to the semifinals. In a day or two I’ll probably be really, really happy but right now it’s hard. This group set the standard for Poly teams that will be coached by me, and I’m happy with the way the program is, the state of the program right now.”

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Sarah Hom and Emma Rowell were too much for the Jackrabbits in serve receive, as Poly struggled to get into system all match. That’s tough for any volleyball team, but especially one as reliant on its middles as Poly. The Jackrabbits weren’t able to set Kristen Dear and Layla Moore nearly as much as they normally like to, as South did a great job of picking on Poly with aggressive serves.

“That was their gameplan, and it worked,” said Aquiningoc. “We put a lot of people in trying to change it, and it just wasn’t our night. Us not being able to establish our middles–that’s not the kind of team we are. Every match we’ve lost this year, that’s what happened. The girls were saying, ‘we work on serve and pass so much,’ and I said, ‘I’ve been a part of teams where you work on it every day, you get to the CIF Finals and you can’t serve receive.’ Tonight was just one of those nights. It’s a tough one.”

The Jackrabbits were down big in the first set before coming back to make it close, and were never in the second set. The third set seemed like it might go Poly’s way, as they ran off a 5-0 run to nearly erase a 12-6 deficit. A controversial touch call reversed what would have been a 12-12 score into a 13-11 South lead, and the Spartans rode that momentum to a 17-11 lead.

Still, with Kalia Teofilo and Sydney Mercado dishing up huge service runs, Poly was able to actually come all the way back to take a 20-19 lead. But the Jackrabbits made too many errors down the stretch, and the Spartans took advantage, closing on a 3-0 run to polish off the Jackrabbits’ season.

Poly will return a ton of key talent including both middle blockers and standout hitters Saniya Kimbrough and Cedra Talaga, who led them in kills on Wednesday. South will advance to face Campbell Hall in the semifinals Saturday.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs South Torrance CIF Volleyball
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs South Torrance CIF Volleyball
Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.