Boys Volleyball: Sacred Heart Cathedral defeats Mt. Madonna to seal first CCS title

Sacred Heart Cathedral junior middle blocker Stephen Tan (left) elevates to make a block against Mt. Madonna on Tuesday at Independence High School in San Jose. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

SAN JOSE – The Sacred Heart Cathedral boys volleyball team was letting top-seeded Mt. Madonna back in the match.

After Sacred Heart won the first game of the Central Coast Section Division II championship with relative ease, Mt. Madonna led 20-13 in the second, but suddenly, the Hawks couldn’t get the ball past the Irish block.

Spurred by a stretch of six point-scoring blocks, the Irish went on a 12-3 run to end the game and took a commanding two-game lead, then finished off Mt. Madonna in the third to seal a 25-16, 25-23, 25-19 win on Tuesday at Independence High School.

The win gives the Irish (25-12) their first CCS boys volleyball championship in school history.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior outside hitter Gabriel Gonzalez tips a ball over a Mt. Madonna blocker on Tuesday at Independence High School in San Jose. (Photo by Doug Ko)

“For us, it’s been a long time, in terms of our program,” said Sacred Heart head coach Nga Tran, who led the Irish to the CCS championship game in her first year with the program in 2006, when they fell to Los Gatos in the title game. “We’ve always been inching along and this unassuming group did a phenomenal job. They were chipping away all season and that’s what happened in game two and game three.”

Four of the eight blocks that came in the final Irish push in the second game came on consecutive points that turned a 22-19 Mt. Madonna lead into a 23-22 Irish advantage, but one stood out.

With the Irish down 22-20, Sacred Heart senior setter Ryan Nievera and middle blocker Stephen Tan went up for a block. The Mt. Madonna attack struck Nievera’s left hand, then caromed off of Tan’s face and fell to the floor, in bounds, on the Mt. Madonna side of the net.

“It hit off his hand and off my face,” Tan said. “I was going to go for it, but it hit my face and I didn’t know what to do. I just saw it go down on the other side and I started cheering.”

Tan then blocked another ball to give the Irish a 23-22 lead and put down a kill to extend the advantage to 24-22. The junior finished with four blocks and six kills in the match.

“He was huge,” Tran said. “Off of transition, when our middles are scoring, we’re unstoppable. At that point, people are guessing.”

Prior to the Irish run in the second game, however, Mt. Madonna outside hitter Jake Getz looked unstoppable.

The junior had nine kills and an ace before the Irish run in the second, but was shut out for the rest of the game and only tallied two in the third.

“[Getz] had his way with us,” Tran said. “I told them that if we shut him down, he was the key to our victory. When we shut him down, we were able to keep a rhythm going.”

The Sacred Heart Cathedral boys volleyball team celebrates after the final point of their win over Mt. Madonna in the CCS Division II championship game on Tuesday at Independence High School in San Jose. (Photo by Doug Ko)

For the entire Irish run to finish the second game, Getz was stuck in the back row, only a point away from getting back into the front-row rotation. The junior finished with a match-high 11 kills.

“We got stuck in a tough rotation, and a couple of hitters were in a slump and matched up with their best blockers,” said Mt. Madonna head coach P.K. McDonald. “They were playing big, we got in a tough rotation and couldn’t get out of it.”

The Hawks (24-8) weren’t dead yet, though, and held seven separate leads in the deciding third game, but Sacred Heart took a 16-15 lead and ended the match on a 11-4 run.

For Mt. Madonna, a school of approximately 65 students that features volleyball as its only varsity sport, the loss is their second consecutive straight in the CCS championship game.

“If we would have won that third game, I think we still could have gone on to win the match,” McDonald said. “It’s too bad, because we got a lot of tough breaks in that match. It’s a really disappointing finish, because the score and the outcome is not going to show how much work the boys put into it.”

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  1. Justa Fan says:

    Go Irish!

  2. JJ says:

    I was hoping Mt Madonna would win because it would’ve brought great joy to their small high school of 65 students. Maybe next year. :(

  3. TM76 says:

    Great Job and congrats to the Irish Volleyball Team! What a great run for the Irish in CCS for the 2011-2012 year. Nice to see so many kids get the chance to experience post season play in a variety of sports. Especially glad for the seniors who have been able to become a champion in their senior year of high school. For some who will not go on to play sports in college it is nice to see them have success in their high school career.

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