By Kristina Ching
Tillers’ boys’ volleyball faced off against Kennedy’s Irish in a high energy game Tuesday afternoon in the sports pavilion. The Tillers expected a close fight going into the match against their two year rivals, but ultimately fought to a victory in three games. Coach Joanna Johnson explained that, “We felt like we really had to come back and prove something to league after our loss to Cypress. We were just hyped up to play, super fired up from a great tournament. Coming in today we were super composed. We tried to focus on energy and good vibes.” Sophomore Drew Donahoo elaborated on their mentality going in, “We were really confident because our mindset was just to think that we are better than them so that we will actually be better than them, and that’s what ended up happening.” Tustin started off steady leading the entire first game, dominating over the Kennedy boys. Junior Carlos Perez skillfully placed a few key hits to finish out the round for the Tillers with a final score of 25-21.
The second game went just as well, senior Josh DeBest lead Tustin to an early lead serving 4-0. He was assisted by Tustin’s skyline, sophomore Drew Donahoo, and senior Alema Pillimai, who blocked any and all attempts by the Irish to return the ball. Some crucial digs by junior Johnny Flores kept the Tillers ahead with a score of 15-10, until Kennedy made a late effort to comeback. A couple lapses in the domination of the game thus far by the Tustin boys gave the Irish fleeting hope, tying it up 19-19. That hope however, was short lived, as seniors Preston McInnes and Josh DeBest, scored a couple more points for the Tillers. McInnes’ strategic hits coupled with DeBest’s quick tips over the net brought the score up to 21-21, the Irish fighting to take out the Tillers right at the very end. Ultimately though, Tustin’s Perez sealed Kennedy’s fate for the second game with a crushing hit to the middle, and a carefully placed tip, bringing the score to 24-21. Flores went up to take the last serve, and the Irish shanked the ball out, securing the second game for the Tiller team: 25-21.
The boys strode confidently into their last game, as Mr.Martyn’s voice rang throughout the pavilion, “Tustin’s gotta keep their foot on the pedal here.” Both teams’ first plays of the game set the tone, Kennedy’s first serve falling way outside the court, and Tustin’s Flores making an amazing diving save on a return from the Irish. The Tillers kept up the intensity, Perez acing his serve, and Pillimai executing a great hit, and a perfect block. With a score of 5-3 in favor of Tustin, Kennedy served out once again, and a rocket of a hit from McInnes bounced off of the hands of the Irish, continuing the Tiller’s domination. Kennedy just couldn’t seem to get their hands steady, as another serve from sophomore Andre Carpio rolled off the hands of a player, and increased Tustin’s lead to 10-5. It was at this point in the game that rather than insult being added to injury, injury was added to insult. One of Perez’s infamous kills right from the net smashed into the face of an unlucky Kennedy player, sending him down hard onto the court, halting the game, and effectively benching him for its remainder.
Perez continued his success with a hard hit to the very edge of the court, and two solid tips into no man’s land, anchored by Flores’ consistent serving, bringing the score up to 17-8. The Tillers faltered towards the end, missing dives, botching a few sets, failing to return the ball, and even garnering a net call. Eventually though, Tustin gained back their momentum and the serve, sparked by a strong hit from Donahoo, right into the middle of three Irish players. A hit from Pillimai inched the team closer to a final victory, with a 19-11 lead. Perez went for another hit, but was denied by the Kennedy blocker. His second attempt however yielded another point for the Tillers: 21-15. Yet another kill from Perez, a miscommunication on the Irish side, and a confident spike from McInnes got Tustin up 23-17. Perez closed the game just as strong as he started, with a kill straight down, to move into game point, 24-17. After an off-target serve Flores recovered with two amazing saves, but the Tiller team couldn’t capitalize. Donahoo ended up finishing the game and cinching the victory for Tustin with a tip to the left side. The final score being 25-18, the team was extremely happy with their performance after a tough loss to Cypress a couple weeks ago.
After the game, McInnes described his opinion on the boys’ performance, and his hopes for the next game, “This was a good win. I’m feeling great, like we’re going to take Cypress next week and win league.” Perez shared the same sentiments, “I feel good. We still have a long ways to go for league. We have to play Cypress next week. We’re coming for them. We’re ready.” Well warranted confidence from a strong Tiller team, hopefully foreshadowing success in their weeks to come.