WILDOMAR >> During the change between games 2 and 3 of their Division 5 second-round playoff match, Elsinore volleyball coach Danny Templeton walked by his Arrowhead Christian counterpart Kevin Verkaik – smiling like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland – and couldn’t help himself.

“Good job, coach,” Templeton told Verkaik. “This is a fun one.”

For the first game, Verkaik wouldn’t argue the point. But after the Eagles took that first game, 25-21, Templeton and the Tigers had all the fun. After dropping that first game, Elsinore rallied for 25-21, 25-20 and 26-24 victories to seize the second-round match in front of a loud Elsinore gym Thursday night.

That sends Elsinore (27-8) into Saturday’s quarterfinals at Ocean View of Huntington Beach, when, presumably, Templeton will be smiling his way through another nail-biter of a match. And make no mistake, there wasn’t a lot of difference between these two. Elsinore entered the match ranked No. 8, Arrowhead Christian- seeking its seventh quarterfinal berth in 11 seasons — No. 9 in the final CIF regular season poll.The biggest lead either team had in four games was the 8-1 edge Arrowhead Christian opened the first game with. After that first game, the biggest edge during the last three games was the five points (17-12) Elsinore led by midway through the fourth game.

True to form, the Eagles fought back to tie it at 21, only to have Elsinore pull away 24-21. Back came Arrowhead Christian to tie it at 24 before Zach McEntire finally put away the pesky Eagles with back-to-back kills – his 14th and 15th of the night.

“Overall, I thought we were evenly matched and we play a similar style. Position by position, we’re pretty even,” Verkaik said. “I thought going in, the team that had the least unforced errors would make the ultimate difference. The service and service-receive game, if we could win that, that would give us a really good shot, but we missed quite a few serves and that put us behind.”

The other difference was McEntire and Gavin Van Cott – Elsinore’s athletic and powerful junior outside hitters. McEntire added nine digs and three aces to his 15 kills, while Van Cott threw down 12 kills and had five digs. Both seemed to be in the right place whenever the Tigers needed a key kill or big play.

“We couldn’t get our hand on their outside hitters. I thought our timing was good, I thought we were together on our blocks, but they kept hitting off the side of our heads, hitting off our elbows and we weren’t quite getting clean blocks on the outside,” Verkaik said.

“I think we were evenly matched, we were both athletic and big with big hitters,” Templeton said. “My setter, James Brady, may have been the difference maker tonight. He makes great decisions and he never gives up.”

An elite setter, Brady is another one of the wave of juniors who have the Tigers where they are. He had 64 assists and seemed to be everywhere on the court – including making digs while sitting on the court. One of those in the fourth game was a featured play in what was another endless rally between the two. It led to an Elsinore point.“He does that often,” Templeton laughed.Templeton can afford to laugh, even as the stakes ramp up for his fledgling program. After all, it’s fun seeing a team comprised largely of juniors take a great punch from a good program – and not blink.

“We really stayed in the moment. They stayed together and they fought them for every point,” Templeton said. “I think that made the difference.

“We just believe that we all have a job. We do our job and we trust in each other.”


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