Trinity Knights boys’ volleyball is on to the CIF Division 6 quarterfinals in the program’s second season after a Saturday night home win over the Marshall Eagles.
The Knights were pushed over and over but never said die and took the match in game five, after trailing 2-1.
Trinity defeated the Eagles, 17-25, 25-22, 20-25, 30-28, 15-13.
Senior outside hitter Mario Bethke led the Knights with 18 kills, including the game-winning quick counter as he set the ball to the Marshall backline to end the fifth set.
“I was ready. I’ve been practicing that at practice and I was ready for that moment,” Bethke said. “So, I’m happy for this and I’m happy for my team. We did great.”
Trinity was lethargic to start and serving errors cost the Knights throughout the night.
“We just didn’t serve very well the first set in my opinion but we were playing pretty well,” said Knights coach Dan Hastings. “I knew that Marshall was a scrappy, scrappy team. And so I knew we kind of had to get the same intensity going and it took a little bit of spirited yelling at them for the first step, but then they figured it out. We got right back and it was just a dogfight after that.”
The Knights flipped the switch in the second game, partially thanks to Bethke catching fire from the end line. The senior fired in six aces, with four straight at one point in his 11-point second set. Bethke was nervous before taking over the game with his big serve but saw his team come together to close out a tough win.
“I was scared,” Bethke said. “I thought we didn’t have it. We were getting down on each other but once we grouped up, we came together. We said, ‘This is our home and we need to fight.’ We’ve got the fight in us and that just took us home.”
Junior Jed Browning also started finding his rhythm in the second set and finished the night with 15 kills.
Trinity also found an extra gear and had bodies diving all over the court for every ball after the first set.
“I think the biggest difference makers that we had is that we were scrappy,” Bethke said. “At first, we weren’t scrappy and we weren’t going for any of the balls that were on the ground. We weren’t diving, but after that first set, we knew we had to start diving and sacrificing ourselves for the win.”
Marshall kept finding runs with setter Khalil Velasco serving. Velasco led the Eagles to a 6-0 run in the third set to help go up 2-1 on Trinity. The setter finished with five aces on the night.
Junior Paul Malki also played well for Marshall, leading the balanced attack with seven kills.
Velasco led a 5-0 run with his serving in the fourth game as Marshall tried to close out the match. The Knights kept finding ways to score and eventually got the Eagles out of sync. Marshall recovered just in time for set point and forced the game past 25 points. The crowd erupted when back-to-back mishaps on the Eagles’ floor set up the fifth game.
The fifth set was tied five times, with both teams clawing for their shot at the quarterfinals. Browning closed out the match strong with four kills in the fifth before Bethke fired the game-clinching heads-up play.
The five-set match was the third of the month for Trinity but a good wake-up call after Thursday’s beatdown of Mesrobian. The Knights swept their opening-round opponents, winning two of the sets by nearly 20.
Trinity has jumpstarted into a title contender in just its second year at the school. The Knights won just two games last season and now have as many playoffs wins this year.
“We were learning how to play volleyball last year,” Hastings said. “Now we’re playing big hits, ones and fours, and we’re playing some schemes. I can’t tell you how proud I am as a coach because they’re just a talented athletic group of guys. I’m so blessed to be a part of it.”
Trinity will now have a date with the top-seeded Leuzinger Olympians. The winner will head to the CIF semifinals next week.
Bethke hopes to see his team keep fighting for every ball and maintain their momentum now that the team is on a five-match win streak.
“I’m hoping to bring the heat,” Bethke said. “We’ve got the team. We’ve got the heart. We just have to put it all out there. We’ll see what happens.”
The Knights head down to Lawndale to face the Olympians on Monday at 6 p.m.