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First CIF boys volleyball title still eludes Barons after upset loss to Sultans Phillip Brents | Fri, May 30 2014 04:23 PM

The Bonita Vista High School boys volleyball team gave a strong hint that the team might erase the disappointment of two much earlier trips to the San Diego Section championship game after rallying to defeat visiting Hoover, 3-1, in the Division III semifinals on May 21.

Certainly, the top-seeded Barons started out strong in last Friday’s CIF title match-up against the third-seeded Santana Sultans at Canyon Crest Academy.

But championship performances are all about finishing the job  and tying up the loose ends. Bonita Vista couldn’t do that and thus let slip away a golden opportunity to capture the school’s first division title in the sport.

The Barons, alas, remain 0-for-3 in CIF championship game appearances in school history.

“We got too confident, too comfortable,” said BVHS coach Anthony Harrington. “We relaxed too much.”

That seemed to be an accurate assessment of the proceedings.

Bonita Vista took early leads in both opening games but the pesky Sultans would have none of that and came back to stun the division’s top-seeded team with 26-24 and 25-19 victories to take a huge 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

The Barons rallied to win the third game — 25-16 — and seemed to have a win all but wrapped up in the fourth game (that would have forced a deciding fifth game) before inexplicably coming to a complete stop in absorbing a hurtful 24-26 setback.

“We kind of ran out of energy toward the end,” confessed BV senior standout Paul Landeros. “We came out with some good intensity in the third game and were up in the fourth game but we couldn’t finish, and let it slip away.”

Energy didn’t seem to be a problem for the underclassmen-heavy Sultans, who were coming off a perfect 8-0 showing in Grossmont Valley League play and a 3-0 upset sweep of second-seeded Sweetwater in the division semifinals on May 21.

The No. 3 playoff seed appeared to be a nice fit for Santana, which had nothing to lose but everything to gain in its finals showdown against the Barons.

“We worked for it all season,” said SHS sophomore Trent Baugh, who received the Sultans’ CIF Sportsmanship Award. “We came together as a team at the end. It worked for us.”

Baugh and seniors Tyler Kirk and senior Drake Vesco led the Sultans (17-10) with 10 kills each while sophomore Sage Hicks-Baguio was credited with three blocks. Junior Ryan Kay recorded 10 digs and three serving aces while senior Daniel Shively was credited with 46 assists.

Kirk said Santana’s three-game sweep of the second-seeded Red Devils in the division semifinals – 25-21, 25-21, 25-19 — gave the East County team a big confidence boost heading into the division final.

“That really helped us,” he said. “It boosted our confidence. We knew we had it in us to win a CIF championship.”

The Sultans, who recorded a runner-up finish in the section’s Division II finals in 1998, opened this year’s post-season tournament with a 3-1 elimination victory against sixth-seeded Point Loma (13-13) in the division quarterfinals on May 16. Santana won by scores of 25-9, 23-25, 25-19, 25-23.

As the opening minutes of the first game of last Friday’s CIF finals played out, it appeared the Barons (19-11) might be gearing up for a rout after swiftly jumping out front by a 5-1 margin. But the pesky Sultans, obviously undaunted, promptly began chipping away at the Bonita Vista lead. Santana took the lead at 15-14 and later at 23-22 after falling being the Barons 21-19.

The teams battled for the final few precious points after Bonita Vista erased a tenuous 24-23 Sultan lead to tie the game at 24-24.

The Sultans won the final two points to secure the 26-24 win and grab the early momentum.

The Barons once again built early leads of 3-1 and 5-4 in the second game only to have Santana come back to build imposing leads of 17-9 and 21-11 before finally shutting down a late Bonita Vista rally to claim a six-point victory and pivotal 2-0 edge in games.

The Barons finally got their game into gear to avoid an embarrassing three-game sweep. Bonita Vista managed to build some momentum on the strength of a 10-6 edge and then held off a spirited rally by the Sultans, who narrowed the score to 13-12, before powering down the stretch to win by nine points in the third game.

In fact, the momentum appeared to remain on the Barons’ side in the fourth game as the division’s top-seeded team shot out to a 22-16 lead. But, as in the first game, Santana’s pesky young spikers regrouped at the crucial time. The Sultans promptly seized the momentum, tying the game at 22-22.

Bonita Vista won the next two points to go up 24-22 and stand on the verge of forcing a deciding fifth game. But the Barons somehow could not nail down that final critical point as Santana magically closed out its first CIF championship with the game’s final four points.

“We had to fight through, we had to stick together,” Baugh said of his team’s successful last stand. “We knew it was up to us to be champions.”

Landeros totaled 12 kills, five blocks and 15 digs in the loss to the Sultans while sophomore Dylan Decker had 10 kills and five blocks and senior teammate Charles Han collected 38 assists.

In 89 sets played this season, Landeros accumulated 223 kills, 37 blocks, 253 digs and 34 aces.

Landeros said his team has to look on the bright side of things, particularly a season full of accomplishments. “It was a season to remember for our seniors and our newer players,” he said. “This was my best season in all my years at Bonita Vista.

“We didn’t take it all, but I’ll take the season.”

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