Fri, May 04 2012 01:37 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Otay Ranch High School boys volleyball team made what coach Tony Fajardo termed “a huge splash on the national scene” during last weekend’s elite Redondo Varsity Classic in Redondo Beach.
No, the Mustangs did not come away with the Gold Division championship title. But they did settle for a runner-up finish to Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) and some well-deserved respect.
Along the way to its second-place finish in the two-day tournament (last Friday and Saturday), Otay Ranch defeated Los Angeles Loyola, 21-25, 25-23, 15-9, in the quarterfinals.
Loyola entered the tournament as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
“Although we lost in the championship match, the boys truly made it a great day,” Fajardo said. “To finish second in this caliber of a tournament is quite an accomplishment since there were nine teams from the ESPN Fab 50 and eight ranked 13th or higher.
“Defeating No. 1 Loyola was icing on the cake,” Fajardo added. “What does not show up in the stats is that we played like a team — unselfish with extremely high energy, effort, a positive attitude and focus. I’m personally very proud of the character this team has developed throughout the season. We’re still getting better in time for the San Diego Section and California playoffs.”
Fajardo said his team entered this tournament last year in time to prepare for the section playoffs. The Mustangs finished what Fajardo termed “a respectable but disappointing” 11th place in the 32-team field. But the experience served as a catapult to upcoming success as Otay Ranch went on to win the school’s first-ever Division I section title and finish second at the Southern California regionals.
What could be in store for the Mustangs this year?
Whatever it is, it looks to be exciting.
While Loyola entered last weekend’s Redondo Classic undefeated at the top of the nation’s ranking chart, Mira Costa was ranked fourth in the nation while Westview was ranked seventh and Otay Ranch was ranked eighth.
The Mustangs polished off their three pool challengers, defeating West Torrance (25-15, 25-21), Beverly Hills (25-9, 25-11) and Palisades (25-16, 25-23) in 2-0 sweeps.
Otay Ranch defeated Burroughs (Burbank) 25-7, 25-12 in the opening round of the playoffs before encountering juggernaut Loyola, then riding a 26-0 start.
The Mustangs shook up the national rankings with their come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
Fajardo noted that the L.A. school was obviously picked by the rankings-makers to win the tournament; he said what the national rankers did not account for was Otay Ranch.
“Loyola was not overrated and they were the real deal,” Fajardo said. “They were experienced, big, strong, powerful and technically sound. Loyola has five starters with Division I volleyball scholarships to schools like USC, UCLA, Ohio State and UC Santa Barbara. That did not matter to us. We got after them and played aggressive team volleyball from start to finish.
“Our serving was relentless and kept them off balance with big jump serves and pinpoint accuracy. Our defense was equally as strong (and) our attack was balanced and effective against their big block.”
Jorge Reyes led the Mustangs with three service aces while J.J. Olaogun recorded 14 digs. Beto Gonzalez and Frank Herrera led the team with .625 and .545 hitting percentages, respectively, while Andrew Freiha paced the team with nine kills.
“Our bench again was a huge factor – either coming in to make a play or just being super loud and strategically obnoxious on the bench,” the ORHS coach said.
Despite hanging the first loss of the season on the top-ranked team in the nation, Fajardo noted his team still had, in his words, its “work cut out for us.”
Next up in the semifinals was a young but talented Redondo Union team that promptly took a 1-0 lead on the basis of a 27-25 victory in the first game.
“That got our attention,” Fajardo said.
The Mustangs, getting back to the framework of their success, won convincingly in the second game, 25-12, and captured the deciding third game by a 15-12 score.
Gonzalez had 11 kills, including five in the third game, to lead Otay Ranch. Meanwhile, Nick Alegrado amassed 34 assists while Freiha had nine kills, Reyes had eight kills and Herrera had seven kills.
Fajardo suggested the energy his team expended in defeating a very athletic Redondo team might have hindered his squad in the ensuing championship game.
The Mustangs dropped both games 25-21.
Otay Ranch returned to Chula Vista with a 33-2 overall record. The Mustangs promptly improved to 34-2, 9-0 in league play, by sweeping host Olympian, 3-0, on Tuesday.
Otay Ranch topped the Eagles 25-18, 25-16, 25-21. Freiha led the victors with seven kills, while Alegrado had 12 assists, Adrian Ventura had 11 assists and Joseph Guarnes contributed 10 digs. Alegrado also had four serving aces.
The Mustangs were scheduled to close out regular season play Thursday against visiting Mater Dei Catholic.
Fajardo said his team will hold its annual Senior Night during its first playoff game. He said that quarterfinal contest is likely slated for May 12, beginning at 7 p.m.
The section finals are scheduled May 19.
© 2009 The Star-News