By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra boys volleyball is in the second year of a rebuilding plan that has gone just about perfectly.
Last year they went from the bottom of the league to a playoff team and fourth place in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League.
They won a playoff game, but ran into Campolindo in the second round. The Cougars were one of the top five teams in the nation at the time, only losing three times all season.
Since Coach Peter Crowley has taken over the program, there is life in the Alhambra gym, and light-heartedness. As they were on their way to a 3-1 win over Clayton Valley Thursday, March 3, the Bulldog boys laughed and played freely, as if they were playing a pick up game.
The jumped out to a big lead almost instantly in the first game. Clayton Valley could only hang with the Bulldogs momentarily before they gave Alhambra the momentum through some unforced errors.
Then Kyle Magtibay’s ace launched an 8-1 run punctuated by a kill from senior middle hitter and returning All-DFAL selection Will Jochum.
Truthfully, it was multiple errors from the Ugly Eagles that allowed Alhambra to run away with the score. But once they found an opening, the Bulldogs busted through it.
Christian Cota’s block and Alin Torio’s ace highlighted another run, this time a 7-0, that put the first game to bed.
Magtibay’s game-winning kill made sure of that.
The second game was a near carbon copy of the first. Clayton Valley’s hitters were accurate enough to make up for less than stellar passing, and it kept them in the game momentarily.
But once they lost their focus, the previously tight match up was broken open by the more talented Bulldogs.
A 10-1 run by Alhambra doomed the Eagles. This time it wasn’t a run aided by their own mistakes. This time it was Alhambra’s defensive work. Jochum had three blocks after a Clayton Valley timeout that forced them to take yet another one.
Then Jochum and fellow 2015 All-DFAL selection Jerald Jionnaran reeled off a pair of kills to steady the momentum Clayton Valley was momentarily building.
The Eagles did just enough to stay within striking distance against some of Alhambra’s second team mixed with the starters.
The Bulldogs would end up winning the game on an unforced Clayton Valley error.
Game three was the only one where Alhambra sat most of its starters. The second unit competed well, but it seemed they lacked the ability to dig out some of the shots the starters did. Suddenly Clayton Valley’s hitters looked more accurate.
That ship was righted almost instantly, but the Eagles were able to ride an early lead to their only game win of the evening.
Still, they forced Crowley to reinsert his starters, who took care of business in the fourth game to seal Alhambra’s second victory of the season.
The Bulldogs improve to 2-0 overall with a non-league match against Freedom-Oakley looming on Tuesday, March 8.