By: Derryl Trujillo

— Valley News Contributing Writer — 

Poly/Riverside (16-7, 7-1): 25-25-25 = 3

Temescal Canyon (11-12,5-3): 18-17-13 = 0

— RIVERSIDE (Poly HS) – One of the first things a volleyball coach looks at on a box score is the service game and, in that section, you’ll find two columns…aces and errors. Win that battle and your team has a strong likelihood of winning the match. Wednesday night, with sole possession of a Sunbelt League championship at stake, Riverside Poly not only won that section of the box score, they dominated it, en route to a sweep which gave the Bears their first championship since 2015. Former CBU men’s player Mike McNeil led that team.

How’d it happen?

Maddie Jimenez had four of Poly’s first five aces in set one as the Bears raced to a 9-1 lead. Bianca Clark’s ace and a solo block by Kate Sullivan kept them in front by a 20-12 margin. Temescal Canyon fought back and closed the gap to 21-15 on Ryan Boatman’s service ace but the set ended on a Bears combination block, 25-13 Poly. The Bears biggest lead was 14-2 in that set.

Riverside Poly’s Madeline Jimenez (3) strikes the volleyball scoring a point at Riverside Poly High School Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

Clark added two more aces in the early stages of set two as Poly raced to a 4-1 lead. A kill from Jimenez plus two aces and two kills by Kayden Croy made it 14-9 Bears as Poly went on a 7-1 run. Darby Deniston’s kill made it 23-15 Poly and the set ended on a Temescal Canyon attack error.

Poly jumped out to a 9-3 lead in set three on a kill and ace from Jimenez, three kills from Croy, and a Sullivan solo block. Croy added another kill which gave the Bears a 22-12 lead and a Titan service error ended it.

Reaction…

Bears coach Dana Fulwider said “When I got here, we were winless the year before and my biggest goal was to get them to trust themselves and the process. Serve and pass has been our focus the last few weeks in practice, and it paid off tonight. We took a gym tour this week and looked at all the banners in here and I told them they had an opportunity to add to Poly’s legacy tonight. They did just that and I’m so proud of them.”

Titans coach Antoinette Campbell remarked “Our energy was really low tonight and that was disappointing. We haven’t made the playoffs in a long time, so the goal was accomplished there. However, I’m graduating four seniors, so it’ll be back to square one next year.”

Jimenez said “The turnaround was a mindset thing…learning to play for your team instead of yourself. When you get on a roll like I was at the service line you just have to keep attacking there because you can see the other team getting frustrated. We’ve been working hard in practice the last couple of weeks on serve and pass which paid off tonight.”

Darby Deniston added “It’s always great to win but to do it this way is something else, coming from no wins as a freshman to tonight, with only two returning starters. We’re laying the groundwork for a strong Poly program in the coming years.”

The Numbers…

Jimenez (P) – 5 aces, 6 kills; Croy (P) – 10 kills, 2 aces Clark; (P) – 4 aces Poly at the service line: 13 aces & 9 service errors

What it means…

Poly wins their first league title since 2015. Both sides will qualify for the CIF-SS playoffs with pairings to be announced Saturday.

Derryl Trujillo can be reached by email at socaltrekkieatgmail.com.