Three years ago, Templeton High’s boys volleyball team returned to action after a seven-year hiatus and played a junior varsity schedule.
On Thursday night, the evolution of an Eagles program on the rise culminated in a 3-1 loss to Vistamar, of El Segundo, 25-16, 25-19, 16-25, 25-20 in the second round of a CIF-Southern Section Division 4 home playoff match.
Templeton (8-0 Los Padres League) finished the year with a 23-4 overall record, including tournament play.
Thursday’s contest between the winners of the LPL and Santa Fe League, respectively, featured a slugfest between two big hitters in Templeton’s 6-foot-6 Henri Cherry and Vistamar’s 6-4 Colin McCall.
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Cherry, a UC Santa Barbara recruit as a junior, led the Eagles with 14 kills and five blocks, while McCall, a senior bound for Stanford on a partial scholarship, led the Vikings with 16 kills.
Cherry also did his part by smashing some fierce topspin jump serves to help his team rack up five consecutive points in the third set, which the Eagles won handily.
“They’re just a phenomenal team,” Cherry said. “(McCall) is a really good hitter, and they come from a place that’s really a volleyball hotspot. The Manhattan Beach area is a central spot for the sport.”
The Eagles also were led by Tobey Isbell, who logged 13 kills, three blocks and six digs, making some spectacular one-handed saves to keep points alive off of balls crushed at him.
The 6-1 outside hitter with a 36-inch vertical leap said he felt like he was “playing with desperation” the entire match because of the weight of the contest and an early deficit.
“That being said, I loved playing against this team tonight,” Isbell said. “Everything about CIF, the pressure, the competition, it’s a lot of fun.”
Templeton coach Todd Schaefer called his team “jittery” in the first set when the Eagles faulted on a few serves and made some unforced errors, but said nerves are normal in playoff matches and controlling them is the key.
The Eagles found themselves struggling to close big gaps, trailing 4-0 and then 12-3 and 18-11 before the Vikings finished the game out.
Then, in the second set, the Eagles’ passing and communication on the court faltered as Vistamar displayed a much more controlled game with sharper feeds to seize a commanding 2-0 lead.
“I felt like our passing wasn’t as consistent as theirs,” Isbell said. “They’re talking all the time. Their communication was really good.”
In the third set, the Eagles took a 7-6 lead on a stuff block and later built a 12-7 lead by the end of a series of serves from Cherry, who had kills at points 21 and 23.
Setter Eric Lahargou had 21 assists in the match for the Eagles, including some well-placed balls in the third set.
But in the fourth, with the score 10-10, the Vikings rattled off three straight points and never looked back.
Some high-leaping kills by McCall at a variety of angles showed why he’ll be a Cardinal next year, and a 22-19 deficit was as close as Templeton got.
“Templeton is a very good team, and I think this match could have been very close if they didn’t give us some points,” McCall said. “I felt like the first two games, we won but we didn’t have to earn it. I felt like we gave them the third, and the fourth was the only one we earned. They have a lot of ability, and it could have been a very close match.”
Schaefer said his team’s outlook could have been different if the Eagles hadn’t lost 6-5 Will Mehring, who suffered a season-ending injury when he broke a bone in his hip.
“It was still a great season,” Schaefer said. “To go undefeated in league, that’s a great achievement.”