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SJND Pilots Volleyball Wins Nail-Biter Over College Prep

It came down to the final set, as the Saint Joseph Notre Dame Pilots (10-6) claimed a 3-2 victory over Oakland’s College Prep Cougars (9-5) in a tense volleyball match-up on Thursday, March 28, at Saint Joe’s Kelly Gymnasium. The Pilots captured the second, fourth, and finally the pivotal tie-breaker sets, with the final results at 21-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-18, 15-11.

Alameda Post - the SJND Pilots volleyball team poses together on the court
The SJND Pilots volleyball team poses on the court after their win over College Prep. Photo Gabriel Caraballo.

The first set dictated how the rest of the contest would play out, as both teams fought to win on the court. College Prep sprang to a seven-point lead over the Pilots, who found themselves down 8-15. That didn’t stop the Pilots, who gathered momentum on a 9-3 run over the Cougars. Then, with the Pilots down by one (17-18), the Pilots’ opposite-hitter Parker Johnston delivered a spike to tie the first set at 18 apiece. Despite the looming presence of a Pilots comeback, however, Cougars stayed focused, regained the lead, and proceeded to go on a 7-3 run that secured a 21-25 first set win for College Prep.

Set two followed suit, as both teams showed an even deeper level of the desire to win. The tightly knotted second set featured multiple ties and lead changes, as neither the Pilots nor the Cougars gave each other even a hair of a lead. Their battle came to a peak at 20-20, when College Prep suffered consecutive errors that gave Saint Joe’s a 22-20 lead. The Cougars scored just once more before the Pilots put together a three-point run, capped off by a devastating tip from outside-hitter Christian Chiu, to claim the second set 25-21.

The match was tied 1-1 after two sets, prepping the third set to be even more electric. However, the Pilots handled a livewire in the form of College Prep and were shocked into an early 10-point deficit. Down 4-14, the third set looked grim for Saint Joe’s, but the Pilots stayed grounded and slowly dissipated College Prep’s lead. The Pilots cut their deficit to 14-19, then were down by three at 20-23, and finally got to just a two-point deficit at 22-24. Unfortunately, their resilience wasn’t enough to complete the comeback, and the Cougars ultimately took the third set 22-25.

Down 2-1 after three sets, Saint Joe’s faced mounting pressure. That didn’t intimidate the Pilots, who took off to an 11-6 lead over the Cougars in the fourth set. That five-point lead was quickly pushed to eight after a missile-like spike from outside-hitter Esteban Cuevas gave the Pilots a 17-9 lead. The Pilots would retain a big lead for the remainder of the set and ultimately win 25-18, with seven points as the largest win-margin of the night.

In the fifth and final set, the back-and-forth fight for victory between the Pilots and Cougars was tighter than a trefoil knot. Tied at 10 points apiece, it seemed no one would break away, until a series of College Prep errors netted the Pilots a 14-10 lead. The Cougars would score once more before another Cougar error gave the Pilots a 15-11 set and match victory.

The victory improved the Pilots to 10-6 on the season and may be the start of another winning streak. Saint Joe’s next match will take the team to Dublin to face Valley Christian on April 2. Then the Pilots will return to their home court to host Oakland’s Head Royce on April 4 at 5:30 p.m.

Contributing writer Gabriel Caraballo covers local sports for the Alameda Post. Contact him via [email protected]. His writing is collected

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