Off the court, Mission Prep senior Jack Mooney and members of the Templeton High boys volleyball team are the best of friends.
When they faced off at Mission Prep on Wednesday, some of those emotions spilled over into the match, but not enough to stop Mooney and the Eagles’ Henri Cherry and Jordan Scully from attacking the ball with the same gusto that makes them some of the biggest hitters in the county.
Cherry and Scully combined for 40 kills, and Mooney had 10 aces, including a stretch of nine straight in the first set, as Templeton defeated the Royals 3-1 in an entertaining and hard-hitting midweek matchup.
“I always hate playing Mission because Jack has been one of my best friends since we were young,” said Cherry, who finished with 21 kills. “It’s always easier to play a team where you don’t know someone.”
For Mooney, who lives in Templeton, emotions were already running high, as he was Mission Prep’s lone senior playing in the team’s final home match of the season.
“It’s a tough end playing against all my friends in the last game of our season,” he said. “I thought we had it, but sometimes, you don’t always win.”
The Eagles won 25-17,23-25, 28-26, 25-18 just two days after Templeton hosted the Royals and also won 3-1.
Cherry added eight assists and three blocks, fellow senior Scully had 19 kills and seven digs, and sophomore Brandon Bracy registered nine kills as the Eagles (19-7) won their fifth straight.
Sean O’Conner had 28 assists and 13 digs for Mission Prep (15-6), and Paul Tompkins chipped in 11 kills and nine digs.
Mooney finished with 15 kills and seven digs to go along with his double-digit aces in a match against the same kids he grew up with.
“Last year, I went into (playing Templeton) with the worst mindset — I was so nervous,” he said. “So this year, I didn’t want to let that happen. I went into it just wanting to have fun and enjoy it.”
The outside hitter was certainly feeling it early, as an incredible streak of nine straight aces helped the Royals jump out to a 12-5 lead in the first set.
Every jump serve leapt off his hand and was on top of the Eagles before they could react let alone make a playable pass.
“That was terrifying,” Cherry said. “We when played them at home, he didn’t have that serve. He was just floating them in there, but this time, it was lethal.”
Mooney finally sent one long to end the run, prompting a loud ovation from the home crowd that included a small, yet, raucous student section.
But the momentum was shortlived as Cherry, a 6-foot-6 senior who will play at UC Santa Barbara next year, returned the favor with a string of similarly thunderous jump serves.
Cherry served 11 straight points, including five aces, to put the Eagles back up, 16-13.
“He completely brought us back in the game,” Scully said.
Bracy finished off the set with two straight aces, but Mission Prep came right back to win a back-and-forth second set. Two kills from Tompkins and a hit wide by Cherry evened things at 1-1.
In another close third set, Templeton staved off two set points down 24-22 thanks to a Mission Prep service error and an ace by Cherry. The Eagles won six of the final eight points in the critical frame, getting back-to-back kills from Scully — who will play at Santa Barbara Community College — to take a 2-1 lead.
The two evenly matched squads stayed neck-and-neck in the fourth until a block by Cherry capped off the final six points won by Templeton, which turns right around to visit county-best Arroyo Grande tonight at 6.
This was the regular season finale for the Royals, and with a playoff berth up in the air, their senior began reflecting on what the past year meant to him.
“There’s always that senior that everyone looks up to,” said Mooney, who hopes to play club volleyball when he heads to Cal in the fall to study architecture. “I get frustrated but I can’t put my head down, because I know there are other guys on our team. I’ve got to have a short memory and go get that next one.”
There was no hesitation when asked about his favorite high school volleyball memory. “These two games against Templeton by far,” he said. “So much fun.”