It was the kind of match that Heritage High School boys volleyball coach Bess Haldi had always hoped to be a part of. The kind that pitted her Patriots against their cross-town rival Liberty Lions, and in dramatic fashion taught her players what they're capable of on and off the court.
Having beaten Liberty in four games in their first clash of the season, the Patriots headed into the Lions' Den on April 24 for a rematch that lived up to its billing.
Heritage scraped together a 27-25 victory in game one but fell behind 24-11 in game two. And then it happened. A Liberty error gave Heritage possession of the ball, the Patriots pounced on the opportunity.
Heritage junior Mike Favolora knocked down four straight aces with his specialty jump serve. It's such a hard serve to receive, Haldi said. It starts with a lot of top spin, then it floats for a while and at the end it looks like it's coming right at you but it ends up turning left or right.
Behind Favolora's hot hand and an air-tight Heritage defense, the Patriots stormed back, scoring 10 straight points to earn the 26-24 game-two victory.
We basically played error-free volleyball, Haldi said. Michael (Favolora) served a great game and our defense didn't let anything drop. It was the type of game that coaches dream about.
Game three saw a confident Heritage team earn the 25-15 win to improve its Bay Valley Athletic League record to 7-5 with four matches remaining. Liberty's record fell to 4-9.
This match taught my players to believe in themselves, Haldi said. For them to maintain their composure and deny them that second game really showed them that they can overcome incredible odds.
Favolora finished with six aces, three kills and two digs. Heritage setter Kyle Jones made 12 digs, 10 assists and four kills. Tanner Cook contributed five assists, four kills and two aces while Stephen Richins chipped in 14 digs and three kills.
Heritage took on Freedom and Ygnacio Valley this week after the Press went to print. The Patriots wrap up their regular season with matches against Clayton Valley on May 6 and De La Salle on May 8.