Warrior spikers reach second round of playoffs
Last updated 6/1/2007 at Noon
Fallbrook High School’s boys volleyball team reached the second round of the CIF Division I playoffs before a four-game loss to Rancho Bernardo in the quarterfinals.
The Broncos’ 21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19 win at Fallbrook’s expense moved Rancho Bernardo into the semifinals while leaving the Warriors with a final overall record of 12-10, including a 4-4 Avocado League won-loss statistic which placed the Warriors third in the conference standings.
Fallbrook was given the seventh seed in the CIF Division I playoffs. “That’s where I thought we belonged,” said Fallbrook coach Tom Saunders.
While Saunders didn’t argue with the seeding committee’s choice, he wouldn’t have thought of Fallbrook as a seventh-seeded team at the beginning of the season. “There were some matches that I thought we could win and some we would have won had we not been beat up,” he said.
“Going into the season I kind of thought we would have been a final four team,” Saunders said. “We would have been that with everybody healthy.”
Two of the three Warrior starters who missed matches due to injury during the season returned in time for the playoffs. Opposite hitter Alex Samuelson, who broke his hand in mid-March, returned to action for the final three regular-season matches and saw gradually-increased playing time culminating with participation in all three games of the league finale against Carlsbad. Setter Erick Sampson, who missed four weeks due to a rolled ankle incurred during a March 1 scrimmage and then injured his thumb in practice April 16, closed out the season as a libero and played with a taped thumb.
Outside hitter Al Siaton, who rolled his ankle in an April 18 match against Oceanside, didn’t return after that injury. Reserve middle blocker Matt Siracusa, who separated his shoulder during practice in early April, was also lost for the season and will be having surgery on his shoulder.
Fallbrook’s seventh seed gave the Warriors an April 14 home match against Chula Vista to open the playoffs. Fallbrook advanced with an 18-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 victory over the Spartans. “Relatively close, but it never felt like it. Once we got going
there, it never seemed like we were in danger,” Saunders said. “I felt like we were in control there.”
Taylor Hughes had 27 kills against the Spartans. “Taylor had a big match, and he seemed to have an answer for everything they did,” Saunders said.
Samuelson added 12 kills against Chula Vista.
Saunders was pleased with Fallbrook’s play against Chula Vista but even more pleased with the Warriors in their loss to Rancho Bernardo. “It was nothing close to what we played two nights later at RB,” Saunders said of the Chula Vista match.
The fact that Rancho Bernardo was seeded second was no mental deterrent to the Warriors. “Just kind of laid out a game plan,” Saunders said. “They were able to be disciplined enough to stay in it.”
That included a win in the first game as well as three close losses. “It ended up being the best experience of the season for me. Everybody brought their ‘A’ game,” Saunders said.
“We were really pleased,” Saunders said. “I put it right up there, I think, as our best match as a team.”
Fallbrook actually had more blocks than Rancho Bernardo. “Things were pretty even at the net,” Saunders said.
Fallbrook had no service aces during the match while the Broncos had several. “They passed the ball pretty well against our jump servers, and their jump servers gave us a little trouble,” Saunders said.
Middle blocker Antoine Wilson led Fallbrook with five blocks against the Broncos. “The middles stepped it up,” Saunders said.
Hughes had 20 kills against the Broncos. Samuelson had nine kills. Wilson and Corey Clark, who replaced Siaton in the lineup, each had six kills.
“Everyone was working in harmony,” Saunders said.
“They were receptive to a lot of input during the match,” Saunders said. “The guys looked to me for some guidance, and they listened to what I was telling them to do.” The second game was tied at 21 points apiece before two serving errors and a hitting error swayed the result to the Broncos. “Those three games were all close, and then they just kind of broke away from it the very end,” Saunders said of Fallbrook’s three losses.
Fallbrook opened its season with a six-way scrimmage March 1 at Rancho Bernardo in which the Warriors played the Broncos in a match where scores were not officially kept. Saunders felt that the Warriors played evenly with Rancho Bernardo at that scrimmage. “It was a nice feeling at the time,” he said.
The Warriors’ season included a March 21 win over Valley Center, who would win the CIF Division III championship. “We finally returned to that level of play,” Saunders said of the playoff match against Rancho Bernardo. “We felt we were there. We felt we had a shot.”
The Warriors had finished the 2006 season with a 13-17 record, including a first-round playoff loss at Granite Hills. Fallbrook had been seeded 10th in 2006 before the three-game loss to the Eagles.
Saunders loses eight seniors from the 2007 team: Kevin Anderson, Clark, Sampson, Samuelson, Siaton, Marcus Taylor, Aaron White, and Wilson. “We’ve already started looking at next season,” Saunders said. “We’re expecting a pretty good season for next year.”