Defending San Diego Section Divsion I champion Otay Ranch went 7-0 last Friday and Saturday to capture the Gold Division title at the La Jolla Beach Cities tournament. The Mustangs defeated Capistrano Valley 3-0 in the final, winning by scores of 20-25, 25-15, 15-13.
“As successful as we have been over the years, this is the first major varsity tournament we have won,” ORHS coach Tony Fajardo said. “It was worth the wait and this year’s team deserved it because they played like a united team. Even our players on the bench contributed to this tournament championship; they were ready to play, loud, spirited and slightly obnoxious from start to finish and it really made a difference ... the difference. When we have a team that is 16-strong, we expect to have the loudest team in any gym we visit and we did!”
The Mustangs — the only San Diego Section team represented in the semifinals — defeated three Orange County teams en route to claiming the tourney title. Fajardo refers to Orange County as “the Mecca of boys high school volleyball.”
Jorge Reyes keyed Otay Ranch with 10 kills in the finale while Nick Alegrado amassed 32 assists.
The Mustangs (now 11-1) defeated El Toro in the semifinals behind 21 kills from Andrew Freiha.
Victories against Granite Hills, San Marcos, Tesoro, Grossmont and Scripps Ranch led to the semifinal match-up against El Toro, which the Mustangs captured 25-18, 25-12.
Defeating Capistrano Valley required a bit more determination after dropping the first game.
“(The first game) went back and forth all the way up to a 16-16 tie, then several untimely serving and hitting errors prevented us from maintaining any momentum and we eventually lost,” Fajardo said.
The second game was different, according to the ORHS coach.
“Oscar Ramirez, Joseph Guarnes and Andrew Gojuangco were called from the bench to make some plays for us and they did,” Fajardo said. “We did start slow falling behind by as much as three points, and then we caught them at 7-7. We went up 9-7 before they fought back to tie it at 9-9. After that, we took the lead for good behind a flurry digs, kills and blocks. Joseph Guarnes sealed the win by calling his shot and serving a jump serve ace!”
Fajardo called the third and deciding game a “true test of our mental toughness, attitude and teamwork.”
Five Mustangs errors to start the game led to a five-point deficit. The ORHS coach quickly called a timeout to allow the team to regain its composure.
A kill by Jared Arias and a block from Frank Herrera and Beto Gonzalez got the Mustangs going. Another kill from Arias and what Fajardo called a “huge” block by Nick Alegrado against Capo Valley’s six-foot-five middle blocker narrowed the score to 9-6, though still in the OC team’s favor.
“Some tough serving and strong net play followed by a couple kills from Andrew Freiha and a monster block from Beto tied the score at 11-11,” Fajardo said. “Beto followed it up with a kill to take our first lead at 12-11. Jared’s third kill of the match, got us to 13-12. Capo answered with a kill to tie it at 13-13. Then Beto came up big again with a late tip for kill and championship match-point at 14-13. At the service line, Beto served a great short serve that Jorge Reyes hammered (on the return) to win the final point. And the players and crowd went nuts!”
Said Fajardo “It was a great team victory and we were very proud to watch these young men fight through the adversity of being behind for most of the match, staying positive, believing in each other and playing through several nagging injuries.”