Tue, May 22 2012 03:56 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Last Saturday’s Otay Ranch-Eastlake quarterfinal match-up guaranteed that a Mesa League team would be represented in Wednesday’s Division I semifinal round of the San Diego Section playoffs.
The match-up was the third of the season between the two east side rivals and, for the third time this season, Otay Ranch prevailed in a 3-0 sweep.
The Mustangs’ spirited 25-12, 25-15, 25-19 victory pushed them once again into familiar territory: a third consecutive trip to the Division I Final Four.
This time the semifinal opponent was the fourth-seeded Carlsbad Lancers. Following top-seeded Otay Ranch’s 3-0 sweep of the Lancers in front of yet another boisterous collection of screaming fans on Wednesday, the Mustangs get a chance to relive last year’s history-making trip to the division championship game.
Otay Ranch (37-2) will meet second-seeded Poway (22-11) for the Division I title Saturday at 5 p.m. at Cathedral Catholic High School.
“It’s a nice reward for all the hard work these guys have put in since their freshman year,” Mustang coach Tony Fajardo said. “It’s huge for the program in terms of getting younger kids interested in the sport. It sets the standard down here (in the South Bay).”
Carlsbad entered Wednesday’s game 23-8 overall after defeating 12th-seeded Mira Mesa in the quarterfinals.
The visitors had their best chance to put a kink in the Mustangs’ championship plans in the first two games.
The Lancers stayed close to the hosts in the first game, moving to within a point on numerous occasions only to see Otay Ranch come up with a big play to create a little more breathing room each time en route to an eventual 25-18 victory.
Carlsbad opened up leads of 4-0 and 6-1 in the second game. But, once again, the Mustangs quickly got to work playing “their” game. Otay Ranch caught the visitors at 9-9 and 14-all before going on to complete an impressive comeback with a 25-19 victory.
Trailing 2-0, the Lancers did not put up much of a fight in the third game, with the Mustangs claiming a 25-11 win and a berth in Saturday’s championship game.
“We practice situations like this all the time,” ORHS senior J.J. Olaogun said. “We’ve learned to deal with things like this. We know that if we don’t rush and we don’t worry that things will fall into place.”
Frank Herrera led the Mustangs with 11 kills in Wednesday’s semifinal match while Jorge Reyes had 10 kills and Andrew Freiha and Beto Gonzalez each had seven kills.
Nick Alegrado had 31 assists while Olaogun had 12 digs. Freiha also had two aces.
Alegrado said it was gratifying to see his team return to the stage of its greatest triumph. “I’ve been playing varsity three years and it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get here,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it without our fans. It’s brought the school together.”
Otay Ranch defeated Poway 3-0 in the opening week of the season. However, the Titans have undergone a metamorphosis since then to rank as one of the division’s powers.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in the championship game,” Olaogun said. “Hopefully, we’ll play our game and win.”
Eastlake was seeded ninth but overcame a 2-0 deficit against eighth-seeded Escondido to prevail 3-2 in games in the Division I opening round on May 9.
The Titans proved equally competitive against the Mustangs. After dropping the first game, the visitors promptly racked up a 3-0 lead. But the hosts were ready for the challenge and quickly got back in the game, and ahead in the game, winning by 10 points.
The third and final game was even harder fought.
Reyes led Otay Ranch with 13 kills against the Titans, followed by Gonzalez with eight kills. Alegrado collected 31 assists and seven digs while Olaogun led the winners with 19 digs.
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