Fri, May 17 2013 11:06 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
It has turned into a great playoff run this season for Mesa League rivals Otay Ranch and Eastlake. The teams, which finished first and second, respectively, in the league standings, will meet each other for a third time this spring in a match-up that will carry the most weight: Saturday’s Division I championship game.
Both east side rivals secured their date with destiny by claiming victories in Tuesday’s semifinals.
Top-seeded Otay Ranch (31-4) defeated fourth-seeded Torrey Pines (24-11) in three hard-fought games 25-18, 25-21, 25-20.
Third-seeded Eastlake (20-11) upset second-seeded Carlsbad (21-11) in a five-game marathon 25-22, 27-29, 25-18, 21-15, 15-12.
The all-Metro Conference finals match-up is a rare one. The last time two South County schools met each other in a CIF championship match was in 1992 when Southwest defeated Bonita Vista for the Class 3A title.
“South Bay volleyball has come a long way,” said ORHS coach Tony Fajardo, whose team, winners of the last two Division I titles, has the opportunity to win its third consecutive CIF championship.
For EHS coach Alex Garibay, the Titans’ run to the championship furthers the goal he set when taking over the varsity program two years ago. The 2013 team is comprised of a core group of players who have been together since their freshman year.
“We’ve worked really hard to get back to that level to compete for league and CIF titles,” said Garibay, whose team eliminated 11th-seeded Escondido (23-25, 25-21,25-21, 17-25, 15-7) in last Friday’s division quarterfinals. “Our team goals (have been) to raise our level to match the top teams in the county.”
The Titans won the 1999 Division II titleand finished runner-up in 1995 (Division III) and 2001 (Division II).
Otay Ranch opened the playoffs last Friday with a three-game sweep of visiting El Camino (22-12) after the eighth-seeded Wildcats had topped ninth-seeded Granite Hills in the opening round on May 7.
In Tuesday’s semifinals, Andrew Freiha led the Mustangs with 19 kills, followed by teammates Jared Arias with 12 and Mitchell Duran with nine.
Adrian Ventura keyed the hosts with 36 assists while Brandon Gullaba totaled 19 digs and Ventura contributed 14 digs.
Freiha is one of the team’s veteran players who has won a coveted CIF championship title.
“The composition (of the team) from the last two years is different,” said Freiha, who leads the eight-time league champions with 386 kills this season. “But we are still strong. We have managed to do it with hard work and team chemistry.”
Torrey Pines twice had leads in the second game before the Mustangs rebounded; the Falcons narrowed the Otay Ranch lead to one point late in the third game before the hosts once again regained the momentum.
The Mustangs defeated El Camino 25-12,25-14, 25-15 in last Friday’s quarterfinals behind 11 kills from Arias and 22 assists from Ventura.
Kai Valdivieso led Eastlake with 18 kills in its quarterfinal five-game thriller.
Otay Ranch enters Saturday’s Division I title game with a 15-game winning streak against San Diego Section opponents.
Freiha said the key to Tuesday’s sweep was “to just stay focused.”
“We had to focus on not playing outside of ourselves, and not worrying about our mistakes and what the other team was doing,” he said.
The Otay Ranch-Eastlake CIF championship match will be one of four title games scheduled Saturday at Cathedral Catholic High School. The Division I contest is scheduled at 5 p.m.
Title games in Division II (3 p.m.), Division III (1 p.m.) and Division IV (11 a.m.) will take place prior to what Fajardo refers to as the “main event.”
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