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Volleyball stays hot, breaks into top 40

Alhambra setter Savion Prieto (1) sets up Christian Cota (11) in the Bulldogs 3-2 win over Miramonte on Friday, April 1, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra setter Savion Prieto (1) sets up Christian Cota (11) in the Bulldogs 3-2 win over Miramonte on Friday, April 1, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

By GERARDO RECINOS
Martinez Tribune

Every student at Alhambra will be happy to be on spring break, but I don’t think anyone will enjoy it with the same sense of satisfaction the Bulldog volleyball team will.

After a thrilling 3-2 win over Miramonte on April 1, the Bulldogs take their 11-1 record and 2-0 unbeaten mark in Diablo Foothill Athletic League play, and the distinction of being the 40th ranked team in the nation into their weak of rest.

Rest from games, that is. I’m sure they’ll be working during spring break.

“Tonight’s match is clear evidence that there is growing parity this year among our league teams now that Campolindo has graduated so many of their senior club players,” head coach Peter Crowley said. “I honestly believe that any team in our League can beat any other given a little special effort and luck.”

There was plenty of effort from the Bulldogs, but probably not a whole lot of luck.

Alhambra jumped out to a big lead early, pounding Miramonte in the first set, despite trailing for most of the match.

Alhambra reeled off an 8-0 run started by a big kill by captain Jerald Jionoran. The senior outside hitters kill helped turned the tide of the match for the Bulldogs, who started off slower than they would have liked.

Jionoran and fellow senior Will Jochum each recorded a pair of kills after a timeout by Miramonte aimed to stop the momentum shift.

Their passing was a step off, but they also had to content with the hitting of talented Miramonte hitter Mitch Brooks. Brooks had a game-high 21 kills for the Matadors.

In the second set, Alhambra was firing on all cylinders. They jumped out to a big lead and didn’t look back.

A pair of blocks by senior Christian Cota and a kill by sophomore Dylan Hammond sealed the big win in the second set.

“Time after time, Opposite Hitter and second Setter, (Nick) Lucido came through with key offside hitting and blocking, while my second Middle, (Christian) Cota equally contributed with strong hitting, blocking and even setting,” Crowley said.

But Miramonte wasn’t going down that easily.

They fought back to put together a statement win in the third set, beating Alhambra’s first stringers 25-13. The Bulldogs were completely out of whack in the set loss, but nonetheless still considered themselves the favorites to walk out of the gym with the win.

In the fourth set, it looked as if the Bulldogs would be forced into a tie-breaker fifth set. MIramonte built up leads as big as five points.

But the Dogs came back to even things up at 20-20 on a kill by Nick Lucido. It looked like Alhambra would come back and steal one when they took a 24-23 lead after trailing. But they couldn’t shut the door on Brooks an the Mats.

Two kills from Brooks in the dying seconds of the set propelled the Mats into a high-energy fifth set.

“(Mitch) Brooks is an amazing player and he nearly defeated us singlehandedly especially with his high, deep line spikes,” Crowley said after the match.

There were four lead changes in the fifth set, but a late kill by Jionoran set the tone. An ace by senior Savion Prieto, kill by the firm of Cota and Jochum sealed the deal for Alhambra to go into the break undefeated in DFAL play.

What that does is set up a huge match up on April 12, where the team ranked 39th in the nation takes on number 40 when Dougherty Valley welcomes Alhambra.

About Gerardo Recinos

Gerardo Recinos is a journalist currently living in Concord, Calif. He is a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with a degree in Journalism (History minor). Gerardo covers sports throughout Martinez and Pleasant Hill. It's his lifelong mission to get people in the U.S. to stop calling football "soccer," and to call American football "handegg."

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