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Paraclete boys volleyball falls short in CIF final, but future looks bright after turnaround season

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NORWALK — Paraclete boys volleyball went winless in the Gold Coast League last season. This year, they tied for first place in the Del Rey League and made it all the way to the CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship game.

Although the Spirits lost 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 25-19, 25-22) to Wiseburn Da Vinci Saturday evening at Cerritos College, first-year Paraclete coach Rion Terry is optimistic.

“It was huge for us,” Terry said. “To go from not winning a game in league last year to being at this stage is huge. It looks good for our future.”

Paraclete’s first-ever CIF-SS championship appearance began on a high note. A block by Brett Novak gave the Spirits a 14-9 lead, but the Wolves rallied for a five-point run later on that brought them within a point of tying the game. Several late errors pushed the score back into Paraclete’s favor.

Novak, a sophomore setter, was a critical piece of Paraclete’s offense. Jacob Linares and Santiago Vazquez were also key with nine kills apiece.

“He’s a freak of nature,” senior Luc Jundy said of Novak. “Nothing compares. I’ve played with all these different setters, and he’s been the best setter I’ve ever played with.”

Paraclete (24-10) fell behind early in the second set but managed to fight to several ties and led by two points momentarily on a serving violation. The Wolves won it on a kill from Amir Grant.

The Spirits were resilient in the third set and dug themselves out of an early deficit and Novak had back-to-back aces to tie the game at 16-all.

A double contact call gave Wiseburn a set-point opportunity and Ben Severson put the set away on a kill. The Spirits have had to come from behind all season, and once again that had prevented them from establishing ground early on Saturday.

“We’re kind of infamous for being slow starters,” Terry said.

The fourth set was tied 13 times before another Grant kill ended the match. Senior outside hitter Santiago Vazquez came up with a big kill to energize the Spirits early and get a 5-4 advantage.

Jundy, a former football player, gave Paraclete a late 18-17 lead on a kill but Wiseburn (35-11) put together a four-point run that gave it the momentum it needed to win.

Grant had 15 kills and eight blocks in the match, while Malakai Tuakoi had 13 kills and three blocks.

Paraclete will return most of its players next season and will only lose two seniors to graduation.

“We had a lot of guys come and try out (this season),” Terry said. “It’s going to look good for us in the future.”

The Spirits next head to the CIF State SoCal regional playoffs, which begin Tuesday. Players are hoping the momentum they’ve gained so far can help push them even further.

“Our team came together as the season went on and then we kept winning and winning,” Jundy said. “And we’ve made history and we just wanted to continue on and we lost this one, but we’ve gotta win state now.”

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