Sports

Key runs vault Heritage Christian past Heralds at home

Whittier Christian's Jimmy West hits around a block attempt by Heritage Christian's Caleb Walden and Mike Otazu during the fourth set of the Heralds' 3-1 loss at home, Thursday night.
Whittier Christian’s Jimmy West hits around a block attempt by Heritage Christian’s Caleb Walden and Mike Otazu during the fourth set of the Heralds’ 3-1 loss at home, Thursday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

With an opportunity to force a tie atop the Olympic League standings, the Whittier Christian boys’ volleyball team stumbled in the third and fourth sets, falling to Heritage Christian 3-1 at home, Thursday night.

After falling in a close first set, the Heralds battled back to tie up the match with a convincing second set. However, the Warriors came up with key runs toward the end of the final two sets, leading to a 21-25, 25-17, 20-25, 18-25 final for Whittier Christian.

The loss also marks the Heralds’ first at home this season.

“This win is huge, they’re a quality team and we know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot in league,” said Sheldon Sheehy, Heritage Christian head coach. “You have to come prepared each and every night in order to take that and come out on top.”

The difference was in the swings, as the Heralds second set victory produced 15 kills and no service errors, while the other three sets were hindered by hitting errors.

Whittier Christian (17-7, 4-2) had its offense running smoothly in the second set, as Jimmy West tallied five kills, while Ron Bellamy added four more from the middle blocker position.

Setter Austin Tafoya tallied 14 assists in the set and added a serving ace as the Heralds’ lone deficit was at 1-0.

Whittier Chrisitan's Austin Tafoya blocks an attack by Heritage Christian during the fourth set of the Heralds' 3-1 loss at home to Heritage Christian, Thursday night.
Whittier Chrisitan’s Austin Tafoya blocks an attack by Heritage Christian during the fourth set of the Heralds’ 3-1 loss at home to Heritage Christian, Thursday night.

“In the first game, we had only five kills and 10 hitting errors and we’re a team that needs to find a rhythm early,” said Chris Duran, Heralds head coach. “In the second set, we executed at a higher level and maintained the momentum throughout that entire game. It’s something that we can’t lose, we just couldn’t get over the hill in the later games, but we’re more than capable of doing that.”

But as quickly as the Heralds gained momentum, the Warriors took it back late in the third set. After battling back to a one-point deficit at 16-15, four consecutive errors by the Heralds gave Heritage Christian the separation it needed to close out the set.

The fourth set remained tight, as both teams battled to a 16-16 tie midway through.

However, the front-line presence by Heritage Christian made it difficult for Whittier Christian’s hitters to get solid shots.

“We just couldn’t hit around the block, which led to a lot of errors, they’re a great defensive team,” Duran said. “They’re a great serving team too, they put the ball where it needs to go, which takes us out of rhythm offensively. There were plays that seemed too good to be true for us not to put the ball down. We missed those moments tonight.”

The Warriors (19-0-1, 5-0) ended the match on a 9-2 run, with the final three points coming by way of consecutive serving aces by junior Caleb Walden.

Whittier Christian's Danny Mueller records a kill through the block by Heritage Christian's Luke Irving during the third set of the Heralds' 3-1 loss, Thursday night at home.
Whittier Christian’s Danny Mueller records a kill through the block by Heritage Christian’s Luke Irving during the third set of the Heralds’ 3-1 loss, Thursday night at home.

“Our front line presence was big, we scouted and kind of knew what they were going to try to do at the net,” Sheehy said. “We wanted to take away their primary option and make them try to hit their secondary shot and put diggers there. It didn’t really pay dividends until the third and fourth sets, but we finally got there.”

Jimmy West and Shawn Stolt led the team offensively, while senior libero Kevin Hoskins kept plays alive with some spectacular work on the back line.

Outside hitters Stephen Doerbecker and Walden led the way for Heritage Christian, with Mike Otazu providing the assists.

Whittier Christian will attempt to bounce back with a tough road match against rival Valley Christian, Tuesday night at Valley Christian High.

“We’re hoping to finish out with a second place finish, which will set us in a good spot for playoffs,” Duran said. “We’re hoping for 20-7, which would be a great season for us, but we’re taking it one game at a time. Valley is going to be tough, they took us to five games the first time around and it’s always tough playing in their place.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.