UPLAND >> The Upland men’s volleyball team’s bid for a CIF-SS title was thwarted Saturday in a CIF-SS Division 3 Finals loss to Royal.
Tuesday was the first step for the Highlanders on the road to redemption.
Playing in the first round of the CIF State Division II Regional, the Highlanders finished each set strong beating Scripps Ranch 25-13, 25-11, 25-20 at Upland High School.
Upland (38-4), the second seed in the eight-team region, will host No. 3 Westview, runners-up in the CIF-San Diego Open Division, on Thursday. Westview swept CIF-SS Division 4 champion St. Margaret’s on Tuesday.
“When the (state) brackets came out, I was surprised we got the second seed,” Upland coach Scott Robertson said. “I think we deserved it, but I thought since we lost on Saturday we wouldn’t get it.”
Robertson knew his team needed to improve from Saturday’s loss.
Upland’s service reception, a strength of the team all season, was back to its usual form.
“Our service reception on Saturday was horrible,” Robertson said. “It was much better tonight.”
One of the strategic moves Robertson made was to move second AJ Contreras from opposite to middle blocker.
“I felt like we needed to be more attacking with our second midfielder,” Robertson said.
Contreras completed five blocks on Tuesday.
Robertson also felt that using a 5-2 offense with setters Aiden Dufour and Jaden Kodongan was an improvement. Dufour had 19 assists, Kodongan 15.
Kai Vogel led Upland with 12 kills, while Jordan Lucas had 11 kills and 13 digs and Cian Slade had eight kills and six blocks. Isaiah Vogel had three aces, the best of his team.
“He (Slade) really pushed us forward in the first two sets,” Robertson said. “The third set we didn’t go to him as much, but he opened things up for us.”
Despite the seemingly routine scoring, there was drama in the game, initiated by the Scripps Ranch coaching staff.
In the first set, Scripps Ranch trainer Lance Taschner initially complained that Upland’s PA system was too loud, even though Upland wasn’t playing any music and it was just Paul Robertson who made announcements.
“We unplugged the speaker by them,” Robertson said. “We didn’t have to, but we did.”
Then there was a problem with the volleyballs used in the game.
Robertson said he was aware that CIF state regulations required Spalding volleyballs for state games, even though in CIF-SS they switched from Spalding to Mikasa.
Robertson said they presented the Mikasa and Spalding balls to the officials before the game and the Mikasa balls were chosen.
Taschner said nothing to the officials until the Falcons trailed 18-10 in the first set.
“My setter came to me and said it was different,” Taschner said. “Then we realized it was the Mikasa.”
The other balls were out, but Taschner said officials refused to change balls, prompting Taschner to file a protest.
“With no disrespect to Upland, they have a very good team. But we should be playing with the right ball,” said Taschner, who said his problem was with the officials, not Upland.
Said Robertson: “We’ve seen them on tape doing stuff like that, a game spirit where they’re trying to slow down the game. We don’t do that here. »
Taschner was also penalized by the officials in the third set when he and an assistant coach both stood up. As a result, no coach was allowed to stand up to give instructions between points.
“I think we needed to do a better job of preparing for adversity,” admitted Taschner.
In the first set, Upland took a 7-2 lead and was never threatened afterward.
The second set was tighter early on with the Falcons holding an early lead before Upland went on an 8-1 run to take an 11-6 lead. A 12-1 run ended the set for Upland.
In the third set, Scripps Ranch was a little harder to put away. The Falcons again had an early lead before Upland seemingly took control, going on a 9-1 run to take a 12-6 lead. But Scripps Ranch rallied to level the score 18-18 before Upland completed the sweep.