Palo Verde boys volleyball coach Phil Clarke isn’t a huge Neil Diamond fan, but he would have liked to hear “Sweet Caroline” a few more times Friday evening.
That’s because his players celebrate each one of their aces with a rendition of the musician’s most iconic song. Instead, he heard a lot of whistles for the opposite result — service errors.
But it still wasn’t enough to derail arguably the Sunset Region’s top team.
Haden Van Orden had 42 assists and 14 digs, and the Panthers overcame 26 service errors to hang on for a 20-25, 25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 16-14 home win over Green Valley in a rematch of last season’s state semifinal match.
“To have to go through that, and hand over a whole set to a good team like that — I don’t know what was going on,” Clarke said. “It was contagious. I remember four in a row a couple different points, and it was from guys who are very consistent. We’re going to have errors, especially because we have jump servers, but we let the mental thing get to us a little bit.”
Palo Verde had 11 service errors in the first set and lost 20-25. But the Panthers (9-1) responded by winning the next two sets to seize control — at least for a few minutes.
“When I told them the number (of errors after the match), it was pretty funny seeing some of the looks,” Clarke said. “It was like, ‘Wow, we really just did that.’ But at the same time, to make that many errors and beat a good team, the defending (state) champs … it was ugly, but we’ll take it.
“Green Valley played really well, too. That’s a good team and they came to play. They took it to us and took advantage of our mistakes.”
The Gators, behind senior James Reed’s 11 kills and 18 digs, made it through 10 ties and four lead changes in the fourth set to win 25-21 and set up a decisive fifth.
The Panthers, who served only three aces in the match, got one of them at the most opportune time. With the score tied at 14 in the fifth set, Chandler Juilfs served an ace to set up match point.
“One of the three (aces) at 14-14,” said Clarke, smiling. “Just good timing.”
Palo Verde then won the match on a Green Valley hitting error.
Stephen Banks put down 15 kills to lead Palo Verde, which lost 3-0 to Green Valley in last year’s state semifinal.
“I thought he stepped up,” Clarke said of Banks. “And he’s one of the new ones to our varsity team this year. He had big points and kills when we needed them.”
Juilfs finished with 12 kills, and Scott Solan had eight kills for the Panthers.
Tanner Castro had four kills and 14 digs, and Zachary Fedarko added 14 digs for the Gators (6-6), who also got 26 assists from Brian Barkemeyer.
Cimarron-Memorial 3, Sunrise Mountain 0 — At Cimarron, Erick Forbush had five kills and three aces to lead the Spartans to a 25-15, 25-19, 25-14 sweep of the Miners.
Edher Aldaco dished out 19 assists with four kills and three aces for the Spartans.
Emerald Acasili had four kills to lead Sunrise Mountain, and teammate Elijah Bright added five digs.
Del Sol 3, Eldorado 1 — At Del Sol, Yerovys Vargas-Gill put down 17 kills, and Alan Ramos-Flores added 30 assists to help the Dragons defeat the Sundevils.
Clinton Cavasora had 15 digs, and Malcolm James notched eight blocks for Del Sol.
Mojave 3, Bonanza 0 — At Bonanza, Kadin Warner had five kills and three aces in the Bengals’ 25-17, 25-18, 25-15 loss to the Rattlers.
Paolo Luchs had eight kills and six digs, James Mead dished out 19 assists, and Mataio Valoaja had four kills and two digs for Bonanza.