A slow start and a sluggish finish kept Taft from completing an undefeated championship season.
The fourth-seeded Golden Eagles didn’t react well to a change in its starting lineup in an attempt to match up to a taller No. 3 Information Technology squad. Taft after evening things at a set apiece watched the Blackhawks go on a long third-set run that put the championship out of reach. Taft fell, 18-25, 25-20, 15-25, to Info Tech in the PSAL Class B boys’ volleyball title game on May 28 at York College.
“You put in this much work in a season,” senior hitter Wilkins Cerda said. “We went undefeated the whole season and to make it to the finals and lose is devastating.”
Golden Eagles coach James Longworth took the blame for his team’s poor start. He tried to use a bigger lineup to combat the size of Info Tech hitters Mateusz Szumilo and Kevin Campbell. Taft was out of rhythm, never led, fell behind 18-9 and never found its footing in the frame.
“It back fired a little bit,” Longworth said. “We also came out a little bit nervous. We weren’t serving [well]. We were giving them unforced errors.”
His club regrouped in the second set behind the play of Cerda and Adonis Cabrera. Taft’s passing and defense improved and its relentless play allowed it to hold off Info Tech. Cerda was sensational down the stretch of the frame. He had a kill, blocked Szumilo and ended the set with another kill.
“I was doing good because the whole team was passing the ball well,” Cerda said. “They were picking up the spikes. They were picking up the tips and I was able to find my way to spike around [Szumilo].”
The momentum carried over early into the third set as Taft (13-1) held a 9-8 lead. Info Tech (10-2) then responded by going on a 14-2 scoring spurt, which included an 8-0 service run by Szumilo. It was too much to overcome.
“Once they got a two or three-point lead, we had a couple of bad passes, didn’t pick up the serve very well,” Longworth said. “It just got away from us.”
The only thing Taft planned on grabbing was the PSAL championship banner after a victory, but it was not to be. The perfect season fell a win short.”
“We thought we had it, that this was our year,” Cerda said. “We were going to bring that title home. It didn’t work out.”