There are times when a game is only a game, and the outcome does not matter.
Wednesday night was one of those times as the American High boys volleyball team mourned the death of its beloved coach, Eric Cruzada, who had spent the past six seasons coaching at the school and several more coaching in the community. Cruzada died Monday of an apparent heart attack.
Cruzada took the team within reach of a North Coast Section Division I playoff appearance, and for that reason it will continue the season. It faced another playoff contender, James Logan, in a Mission Valley Athletic League match a day after learning the news, falling in four games 25-19, 27-25, 22-25, 25-18.
"The team felt that it would be a shame if we just gave up," said Lam Vo, who is coaching American along with Jesse McLellan. "He meant the world to them, he brought us together as a family and taught us family was more important than volleyball, and we are going to keep playing for him."
The visiting Eagles (15-12, 7-4 MVAL), rode the roller coaster of emotion, nearly rallying to win in game two and almost forcing a fifth game before running out of steam in the fourth game.
"They held it together really well," McLellan said. "We talked about keeping our composure and keeping our focus on the court, and they did a great job with that."
Behind 10 kills from Jalen Ponco and 26 digs from Cruzada's protege, Henry Capinia, American made a statement that it belongs in
"I have so many mixed emotions right now," Ponco said. "We wanted to go out there and make him proud and make him smile because that is what he was all about. He was always smiling, and I was honored to play for him since middle school. Getting to the playoffs was a vision of his, and we want to realize that goal for him."
James Logan 2, Newark Memorial 1: The Colts clinched their third consecutive Mission Valley Athletic League crown thanks to some clutch hitting and great defense in a win over the second-place Cougars.
Logan (20-1, 11-0 MVAL) only managed five hits off Newark Memorial's Marissa Chapa, but they were timely. Jazmine Reed and Alexis Martinez began the visiting Colts' only real rally with back-to-back singles to start the fourth inning. Caley Bonansea followed suit with a base hit to center field that scored Reed when the throw home was dropped.
Martinez then scored the go-ahead run on Raeann Garza's groundout.
Garza, a third-year starting pitcher, and the Colts defense did enough to preserve the win. Reed, in particular, made some difficult plays at shortstop as part of an errorless team effort.
"My defense made some awesome plays today, especially my shortstop Jazmine saved my butt a couple times," said Garza, a junior. "It takes a lot of pressure off knowing my whole team has my back defensively."
Newark Memorial (17-4, 8-2) had its chances. Erica Contreras (3 for 3) led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. The Cougars then got runners at first and second with no outs but didn't score again. They had eight hits and stranded eight base runners in all.
-- Stephanie Hammon
Alameda 5, Berkeley 0: Junior left-hander Rory D'Alleva-Keane pitched a one-hitter, and the Hornets clinched at least a share of the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League title with the victory over the Yellowjackets (9-12, 5-4 ACCAL) at San Pablo Park.
Alameda (15-5, 10-0) can wrap up the title outright when it hosts De Anza on Thursday at Lincoln Park at 4 p.m. The Hornets have won 28 straight ACCAL games.
D'Alleva-Keane's pitching alleviated the frustrations the Hornets experienced offensively in the first five innings. Alameda had 17 batters reach base through five but pushed across only two runs.
Six runners were cut down on the basepaths in the first three innings on two pickoffs, two runners thrown out at home, one caught stealing and a runner abandoning second base after mistakenly thinking he was out.
"I can't describe it. We had three mental errors," Alameda coach Ken Arnerich said. "But (D'Alleva-Keane) threw a heck of a game."
The Hornets finally cashed in with three runs in the sixth inning to gain some breathing room. D'Alleva-Keane (4-3) walked two and struck out five, needing just 83 pitches to go the distance.
-- Jimmy Durkin