By Josh Levine
Balboa High School claimed the fourth and final AAA playoff spot with a 3-2 (25-18, 25-16, 22-25, 21-25, 15-7) victory over Washington on Wednesday at Washington High School.
The Buccaneers (4-6, 4-5) were led by setter Phillip Chen and outside hitters Nick Hom and Jeff Ly. As a team, the Buccaneers had 45 kills over the five games.
“Our guys were prepared and fired up,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Val Cubales. “I feel the mentality of the game today was what I wanted. What I didn’t want was for them to be relaxed. That’s the thing, it’s all about your attitude for all of the teams coming in to the playoffs.”
After losing the first two games, the Eagles (2-9, 2-7) fought back to take games three and four, but the Buccaneers proved to be too much for them in the fifth game, starting off on an 8-0 run.
“Four of our starters are out with ankle injuries,” said Eagles Head Coach Ryan Ung. “Injuries have been an issue all year, but our guys have been fighting through it and improving along the way.”
The Eagles combined for 32 kills over the five games, but only had one kill in the decisive fifth game.
“In that last game, we had to play without our setter (Charles Husaini) because he had dislocated his right elbow in the fourth game,” said Ung. “I didn’t catch it, and he didn’t say anything. As soon as one of the guys told me about it, I pulled him from the game and had his parents take him to the hospital.”
After Husaini had to leave, the Eagles were forced to use multiple backup setters.
Balboa has one more regular season match left, which is against Lowell on Friday. The two teams will meet again on Wednesday in the first playoff round, as Lowell (13-9, 9-0) has clinched the top seed seed while Balboa is guaranteed the fourth seed.
“We were the only team that took Lowell to five games this season,” said Cubales. “We feel we can keep up with them and play on their level. Any one of the top four teams can win this year.”