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Mustang spikers, drum roll, advance to CIF title game Phillip Brents | Thu, May 19 2011 02:43 PM

The Otay Ranch High School boys volleyball team is on the rise, make no mistake about that. After advancing to last year’s San Diego Section Division I semifinals — a first for the program — the Mustangs have done one better this year. They will play fourth-seeded Torrey Pines in Saturday’s division championship game.

Second-seeded Otay Ranch carries a 29-7 record into Saturday’s CIF final. The Falcons are 20-11 after upsetting top-seeded Carlsbad, 3-0, in Tuesday’s semifinals. Match time is 5 p.m. at Canyon Crest Academy.

The magical journey continues for the Mustangs, who eliminated the 10th-seeded Mission Hills Grizzlies (17-14) in a three-game sweep in last Friday’s quarterfinals before recording a 3-2 victory Tuesday over Poway (20-14).

Otay Ranch is currently 2-0 against North County foes in post-season play. Few South County teams — past or present — can boast of that feat.

Tuesday’s victory over Poway was sweet, as the Titans had eliminated the Mustangs in last year’s division semifinals. The reigning Mesa League champions had also lost to Poway 3-1 in March.

The Mustangs prevailed Tuesday in “epic fashion,” according to coach Tony Fajardo, winning 25-13, 25-13, 22-25, 22-25, 15-12.

In the deciding fifth game, the crowd estimated at more than 450 began chanting, “I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win.”

Otay Ranch regained the aggressiveness it displayed in dominating the first two games and properly rewarded its energetic fans.

Fajardo profusely thanked those chanting fans. “(Their) energy and positive support fueled us to victory in the fifth game,” he said.

It was like nothing ever before.

“It was an amazing event,” Fajardo underscored. “Any time you can defeat a quality well-coached team like Poway, it’s a big deal, especially after they knocked us out of the semifinals last year and they beat us at our house earlier in the season. And it was the win that punched our ticket to the CIF championship match.”

Just how big was Tuesday’s semifinal victory over Poway? Fajardo noted the Mustangs had not defeated the Titans since 2006 and “we schedule them every year,” he said.

“Our guys came together as a team when it was really critical in that fifth set, and that was the key to victory,” the ORHS coach said. “When these guys play as a team, play unselfish volleyball, stay positive and support each other they can not be beat. And that’s what it’s going to take to defeat another quality-well coached talented team like Torrey Pines.

“This win was a significant step in our progression as a program. It’s a step we’ve been preparing for several years. Winning CIF has always been our goal and we write that on our goal sheets every season. Now we have an opportunity to check that goal off our list and reach even higher.”
Otay Ranch will have revenge on its mind Saturday. The Mustangs lost 3-1 to Torrey Pines in a non-league contest in early April. However, that match-up was highly competitive on the Mustangs’ part. The Falcons won 25-23, 27-29, 27-29, 25-21, 25-20.

Nathan Allen led Otay Ranch with 18 kills against Poway while Jared Arias accumulated 12 kills, Jorge Reyes had 11 kills and Nick Alegrado collected 38 assists, three serving aces and 11 digs. J.J. Olaogun led the Mustangs with 18 digs while Allen had 12 digs.

Otay Ranch swept Mission Hills 25-17, 25-18, 25-20. Frank Herrera, Nico Pizarro and Reyes each had 10 kills while Arias contributed nine kills. Alegrado racked up 45 assists and three serving aces while Olaogun had 11 digs.

Fajardo expects Saturday’s CIF final to be hotly contested, whichever team comes out on top.

“Both teams have improved since (their last meeting) and this should be another amazing match between two of the top programs in the county,” he said.

The Mustangs’ rise toward the top has been steady. The team has won six consecutive league titles and success is now starting to be felt in out-of-area match-ups.

“The success we’re experiencing now is a product of all the hard work these student-athletes perform in the off-season, throughout the school year and during the season,” Fajardo said. “Our success today is also a product of the foundation that was laid by all of our past players’ success and accomplishments, starting with our first graduating class of 2006 to the present. Over our short history, we’ve been blessed with very supportive parents, student-managers and the hardest working dedicated coaching staff in the county. All of those things are keys to where we are in our journey to be the best in the county and beyond.”

According to the ORHS coaching staff, spirit buses will be available free for fans on a first-come-first-serve basis. The buses will leave Otay Ranch High School at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Otay Ranch HS students will have first priority, but all are welcome if space is available. Students under the age of 18 without a parent must have a signed permission slip prior to boarding the bus. Permission slips will be available on Saturday before the buses leave.

Canyon Crest Academy is located at 5951 Village Center Loop Road, San Diego (near the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and Carmel Valley Road).

The Metro Conference volleyball senior all-star matches are on Monday, May 23, at Otay Ranch HS. The girls game is at 5:30 p.m.. The boys game follows at 7 p.m.

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