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Long Beach Poly Volleyball

CIF Volleyball: Quick Start Anchors Long Beach Poly In Win Over Fountain Valley

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It wasn’t a matter of if the Long Beach Poly boys’ volleyball would catch fire in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playings, it was a matter of when.

The Jackrabbits were able to overcome early jitters on Wednesday night at the Ron Palmer Pavilion, jumping out to a commanding two set lead against visiting Fountain Valley en route to a 25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20 quarterfinal victory.

“[Working on our slow starts] was the first thing that we talked about after that last match.” said Poly coach Sid Davidson. “It was the first thing we worked on in practice and these guys performed tonight. We have a good core of seniors and they were saying that they didn’t want their season to end, we gotta make sure that every practice we have from this point moving forward is like our last practice.”

After dropping the first two sets in their reverse sweep win against Trabuco Hills on Saturday in the second round, the Jackrabbits flipped the script in the quarterfinals and redeemed themselves with convincing wins in the first two sets against Fountain Valley. Poly led by as much as seven in the first set while overcoming 11 total ties in the second.

“It’s great, I love starting out the game super strong,” said Poly middle blocker KJ Hill, who finished with a game-high four blocks. “It builds the crowd’s energy and the bench’s energy and makes all of us look like a team and a family. I was just listening to my coaches there and they helped create a solid block for us early on.”

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In the third set, Fountain Valley looked more lively behind outside hitters Bennett Haydorn and Thomas Ho. The pair helped the Barons fight back and lead for the entirety of their 25-21 third set win.

“We just had to lock in and clean up a lot of the little things that we’re dropping around us,” said Davidson. “Dropping a pass here, a dig here, and our guys kind of let their energy levels drop a little bit. But once we get that energy going again, hey, you saw what happened.”

The Jackrabbits looked back to their senior captain Lucky Iosua and he came alive in the fourth set. Iosua poured in 10 of his game-high 23 kills in the fourth set including a kill at match point to send his team to the semifinals. 

“It was just the energy that the bench brought me,” he said. “Everyone was looking up at me and I told them that, ‘I got you guys’ and pulled through. I think it was also just the environment. The bench, the fans, and all my family and friends.”

Hill added 12 kills alongside Iosua’s 23 kills. Jackson Trunnelle added nine kills and Matt Tsoa chipped in eight. The four were fed by setter Ryder Tuaolo, who finished with all of the Jackrabbits’ 58 assists.

“It’s easy knowing I have outside (hitters) who can go up and hit the way they do,” said Tuaolo. “And also being able to rely on my middles. It feels great to get them to go up and get the ball.”

Tuaolo, a St. Anthony transfer, came into the season having missed his club season due to a leg injury and has been getting back into his groove on the court as a senior. Tuaolo was also previously sidelined with a foot injury two years back so it’s been nice to finally have a chance to compete in the playoffs at Poly while fully healthy.

“It really means a lot to me,” he said. “This team really welcomed me after my injuries. I tried to work hard to get back to where I was but with my teammates it really works well with them being able to help me out.”

“He’s a special player, definitely a special player,” said Davidson of Tuaolo. “I know he transferred in and wasn’t around as much, but I love the kid because he’s gone through a lot of adversity. He went with a broken ankle two years ago, last year with a broken leg. He really didn’t train with us in the fall, so it tributes a lot of his hard work and dedication to the sport.”

The Jackrabbits will head to San Juan Capistrano on Saturday to take on St. Margaret’s in the semifinals of the Division 3 bracket.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Fountain Valley, CIF Volleyball
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs. Fountain Valley, CIF Boys’ Volleyball
Eli Aquino
Eli Aquino is a high school student with plenty of writing and technology skills. He has a healthy knowledge and passion for sports and looks to take on journalism as a future career.