"This was a test that we needed," said Coach Ken Vigilla, whose Cougars are ranked ninth in Division V by the CIF Southern Section as they gear up for the program's first playoff run since the late-90s. "It was definitely one of the toughest games we've had this year."
Things truly started to get dicey for the streaking Cougars when — after holding on for a narrow third-game win to take a 2-1 lead in games — they fell into a double-digit deficit midway through the fourth game.
Glendale Adventist (15-1, 12-0 in league) went on to lose the fourth game with little resistance, setting up a winner-take-all fifth and final game.
"With the game we lost before, we were all down and everything, but we tried to make it more intense [for the fifth game] and bring everybody's spirits up," said Ahrcee Pimentel, who led the Cougars with 23 kills.
Pimentel embodied that intensity with his strong play in the fifth game, tallying three kills to help the Cougars open up a quick 12-3 lead.
The Eagles answered with a 7-1 run of their own to nearly catch the Cougars at 13-10. A kill by Josh Misuela, who had two of his 13 kills in the final game, notched a sideout for Glendale Adventist and switched the momentum once again, this time for good.
"Luckily we've been through [a five-game match] earlier this season when we went to a Game 5 with Providence," said Vigilla in reference to the Cougars' only defeat of the season, a March 5 setback at the hands of the Pioneers. "[The players] knew they had to come out with all the energy they had to start off the game, and it paid off to jump out to that early lead."
The Cougars close out their regular season today, with a league match at Hillcrest Christian, which they defeated in their season opener. It will mark the end of a week that will have seen Glendale Adventist play four matches in four consecutive days.
Hillcrest Christian already has two league losses, as does San Gabriel Academy following Wednesday's defeat, allowing for Glendale Adventist's early coronation as league champion.
"It just felt great," said Pimentel of capturing the title, "but we've still got a long way to go, and we've still got the playoffs."
GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or by e-mail at email@example.com.