But Sage Hill bucked the trend for good, weathering the Rebels’ fourth-game comeback and fending off game point to preserve a 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 26-24 win.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons, our guys found a way, though,” said Sage Hill Coach Dan Thomassen, whose sixth-seeded team will host Arrowhead Christian Academy in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. on Saturday. “That second and fourth game we were behind both games and found a way to win.”Following its win in the third game, the only stanza not to feature a tight battle down the stretch, Sage Hill (17-9) tipped the balance of a neck-and-neck fourth game by going up, 15-11, on a kill by Mattias Russo-Larsson, who led all players with 23 kills.
A timeout got the Rebels (16-8) back on track and they tied the game at 16 on a 5-1 run that included one of middle blocker Kenyatta Smith’s 10 kills.
But the Rebels weren’t done, extending the streak, which was fueled in part by a five-point service run by Chris Davis, to take a 19-16 lead.
“Chris Davis came out with an amazing amount of jump serves and he really jump-started that comeback,” said Beattie, whose team advanced to the Division V semifinals last season.
After Sage Hill tied the game at 19, there were five lead changes and four ties down the stretch, with the Rebels taking a 24-23 lead on a ball into the net.
But a Rebels hitting error gave the Lightning the serve back and Cole Kirby (15 kills) made good with an ace to give Sage Hill match-point at 25-24.
Sage Hill looked sharper from the start in the first game, leading, 17-11, before Prep made its move, battling to take a 23-22 lead and sealing the win on a kill by Edmund Chow, who led the Rebels with 11 kills and 11 digs.
The second game saw Prep take that momentum and run with it, going up, 18-13.
Prep still held a four-point lead after Chow’s tip made it 22-18, but Sage Hill closed the game on a 7-1 run.
“It seemed like every game there was a turnaround,” Thomassen said. “The first game we had a decisive lead and they found a way to claw back at home.”
Beattie praised his fifth-seeded team for its strong season that included a Prep League tri-championship.
“Early in the year I heard a lot us people tell us it was a rebuilding year with how much we lost,” said Beattie, who graduated some key players from last year’s squad. “I hate that term. I told the guys for a quote-unquote rebuilding year, to win the first league championship in nine years for the school, to be ranked in the top five [in Division V] for most of the year and to play some amazing games with some great teams, I couldn’t be more proud than I am of our team.”