SANTA FE SPRINGS - It's off to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division III playoffs for the Santa Fe High School boys volleyball team, as the Chiefs defeated visiting Diamond Ranch 25-23, 25-21, 25-15 in the first round Friday night.
The Chiefs (15-6) advance to Tuesday's round against either No. 1 seed and Ocean League champion Santa Monica (16-13) or Golden League No. 4 seed Palmdale (7-8).
"I have a lot of confidence in this team," Santa Fe coach Chris Komer said. "It seems like we've played all season long down or behind a game or two. We did well in coming back today."
Komer was primarily referring to Game 2, in which Santa Fe fell behind by as many as eight points at 12-4.
The Panthers (8-8), the Miramonte League's No. 3 seed, came out firing after losing Game 1, 25-23, with three blocks from team captain Lamar Tisdom.
But just as Diamond Ranch recorded its largest lead, the Chiefs mounted a sizeable rally.
Santa Fe caught Diamond Ranch at 13-13 after a 9-1 run fueled by several Panthers' unforced errors.
In fact, five of Santa Fe's points during the run were off errors.
Santa Fe went ahead 17-14 after a Tisdom double-hit and Jeremiah Taotoai's blistering spike that just managed to stay inbounds in the Panthers' left-rear corner.
But Diamond Ranch managed to stay within two points until 20-18.
That's when Ben Cano smacked a kill through a Kyle Mooney block attempt, putting the Chiefs up three and forcing Panthers co-coach Vince Mitchell to call a timeout.
The break did not help, as Santa Fe closed out the game with a 4-3 run.
The final point was scored when Tommy Veloz dropped a kill in front of Mooney.
"This team hasn't quit once at home this season," Komer said. "We might not have played our best at times, but we managed to get the win."
The Panthers had their opportunities to steal a game.
In Game 1, both teams were tied at 22-22 when Diamond Ranch's Jesus Bolanos hit directly into the net on a kill attempt, giving the hosts the lead.
Mooney followed with a lifting violation, putting Santa Fe up 24-22.
Even when the Panthers pulled to within 24-23 on a great kill from Ali Kahil off the right wrist of Jonathon Esparza, they still managed to lose the game.
On the next possession, Andy Luu committed a service error as his attempt went flying into the stands.
"I wouldn't say that Diamond Ranch wanted it more," Panthers co-coach Vanessa Garcia said. "I think we wanted it so much that we were overly aggressive."
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