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CCS D-II Boys Volleyball Championship: Mount Madonna comes up just short of title
[May 19, 2011]

CCS D-II Boys Volleyball Championship: Mount Madonna comes up just short of title

SAN JOSE, May 18, 2011 (Santa Cruz Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Mount Madonna School boys volleyball team proved it has the heart of a champion -- even if it doesn't have the hardware.

The Hawks twice gutted out come-from-behind wins over St. Ignatius -- including pulling away for the final four points of Game 4 -- during the Central Coast Section Division II championship match Tuesday. But by the time the final ball hit the floor at Independence High, the Wildcats were the ones hoisting the winner's trophy after a 25-17, 19-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-7 victory.

"They gave us all we could handle every play. Those guys play with so much heart," said Brad Walsh, who co-coaches the St. Ignatius team with Scott Dunne. "They matched our heart and negated our height, and that was nice to see." Mount Madonna, which has the smallest enrollment in the section with 65 students, reached the final for the first time since 2002, when the school won its only boys CCS championship. The players were good sports after the match and a couple even wore grins while accepting the runner-up trophy. Still, they said the loss hurt.

"I tend to stay more positive than other players, but I'm not going to lie," said senior James Clifton. "We're excited to get this far, but it tears us apart to go five games and be so close and not get it." Though they entered as the No. 1 seed, the Hawks [28-8] knew No. 2 St. Ignatius [24-11] wouldn't be a pushover. For starters, the Wildcats came in on a roll. They upset Bellarmine Prep -- which beat swept Los Gatos D-I title later Tuesday -- in five games in the championship match of the West Catholic Athletic League Tournament last week. Since then, they have crushed their opponents in the first two rounds of the CCS tournament.

There was also a matter of size. Nearly each of St. Ignatius' starters stands taller than 6 feet. That includes kill leader Joe Schow at 6-3, middle blocker Connor Mccauley at 6-7 and opposite Mat Collins at 6-4. Meanwhile, Mount Madonna's tallest player is its setter, Ryan Alfaro, listed at 6-3.

"That was definitely a factor," said Mount Madonna sophomore outside Jake Getz, who finished with nine kills. "Not because it made them better, but because we saw them as big. It's hard to pass well, stay centered and focus when they have six inches on you." Somehow, the Hawks managed when they had to.

Nerves and St. Ignatius' strong play on offense and defense knocked Mount Madonna out of Game 1, and the Hawks trailed for nearly half of Game 2. Then Joseph Frediani stepped in to serve. The sophomore rattled the Wildcats with his floater and jump serve, and PK Hattis and Willy Bryan also got in on the serving act to spark a 14-2 swing in the Hawks' favor that would eventually lead to the game win.

Unforced errors cost the Hawks in Game 3, as four of their final six servers sent the ball out of bounds or into the net, including on game point.

Then came the decisive Game 4.

St. Ignatius pulled away for the 13-8 lead, but a determined Mount Madonna squad wouldn't let the season end so quickly. Frediani's serving again played a part, and players such as Hattis [17 kills for the match], Bryan [10 kills], Clifton [six kills], Ben Mangus [four kills, threeblocks] and Alfaro [36 assists] stepped up to make big plays. The teams knotted at 21-all, then a kill by Hattis, two strong plays at the net by Bryan and a line drive by Getz gave the Hawks the win and momentum heading into Game 5.

That's where the magic stopped for the Hawks. Though they battled for each point, they couldn't stop the Wildcats, who in addition to being large and talented, had been in the same situation just a week earlier in their match against Bellarmine, and won.

"Errors killed us. Our outsides played too tight," said Mount Madonna coach PK McDonald, who helped the Hawks win their first title as a player. "I don't think the final score showed how tight it was to the end." The Hawks can take some good out of the finals appearance. They will graduate just three players -- Hattis, Clifton and Mangus -- and will bring plenty of title-hungry ones back to the court next season.

"It's tough. We have a strong group of seniors this year. Trying to move on without them next year will be challenging," Getz said. "I'm excited to see how we step up." To see more of The Santa Cruz Sentinel or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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