By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The feeling that volleyball players Marcus Partain, Justin Howard and Akhil Tangutur had after last Thursday’s match was unlike anything they ever experienced before—almost stunned disbelief.
Never in four seasons at Palisades High had any of them lost a match in the Dolphins’ gym, but that streak ended with a 25-22, 25-15, 25-20 defeat at the hands of Mira Costa in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I semifinals.
Having defended their City Section crown and racked up a school-record 42 wins in 44 matches, the Dolphins entered as the No. 2 seed behind Southern Section Division I juggernaut Newport Harbor and were anxious for another crack at the Sailors, whom they lost to in the Best of the West finals in March.
However, third-seeded Mira Costa was equally motivated, looking to avenge its 25-19, 25-15 defeat in the semifinals of the Redondo Classic on April 20.
“The biggest change tonight was mindset,” Mira Costa assistant coach Greg Snyder said. “Last time I think we were looking past them. Today we served a lot better and got them out of system a bit. It was really important to win in three sets because I knew if they got momentum it was probably going five.”
Palisades opened a four-point lead in the opening set but the Mustangs (27-5) battled back and finished with a down-the-line kill by Ben Coordt.
Mira Costa stormed to a 13-6 lead in the second set and Thomas Kretschmer ended it with a kill to give the visitors a two-set lead. The third was even at 14-14 when Mira Costa closed on an 11-5 run, ending with a serve into the net on the third match point.
“When you’re off a little and they’re on it’s what happens,” Pali High Coach Carlos Gray said. “All I feel right now is gratitude. This is one of those seasons you don’t want to end. Whatever I asked them to do they did, which is rare for players this caliber.”