By John Sherrard, Correspondent
MONTEBELLO – Some boys volleyball teams have been known to look past opponents prior to important league matches, but Montebello did no such thing Thursday.
The Oilers swept visiting Keppel, 25-16, 25-20, 25-22, but not without a fight from the Aztecs in all three games in an Almont League contest.
The Oilers, after a match against Alhambra on Tuesday, face tough league foe San Gabriel next Thursday, a match which will have title implications down the line.
San Gabriel and Montebello finished with identical 9-1 league records last season.
“We absolutely needed the win (Thursday) to keep up with San Gabriel,” Montebello coach Greg Ng said.
“Give Keppel credit, they continued to hit balls and get some kills on us.”
Montebello (12-6, 3-0) took an early 11-5 lead in the first game, highlighted by some big kills by senior outside hitter Geovanni Martinez.
“I had a few mistakes (in the game) and I try to get back up and I get mad when that happens,” Martinez said of his kills.
Martinez, who has been with the varsity team for four years, which included some playing time as a freshman, led all players with six kills.
Senior setter Marck Velasquez had 15 assists and two kills for the Oilers.
The Aztecs came roaring back and went on a 9-5 run to jump back into the first game as Montebello committed some errors at the net. Senior outside hitter Chris Chuateco (six kills) brought Keppel (7-5, 2-1) to within two, 16-14, as he went up high for a thunderous kill.
“(Thursday) was kind of a breakout game for him,” first-year Keppel coach Francis Chu said. “He’s quite the athlete and he’s kind of been getting there as far as playing aggressive. I think he really was one of the big reasons we were able to stay in (the match).”
Montebello, however, went on its own 9-2 run to close out the first game.
In the second game, Keppel actually took its first lead of the match, 7-6, on a kill by senior outside hitter Steven Lopez (seven kills). The teams went back and forth, with seven ties in the game and Montebello holding a two-point lead, 14-12, until Martinez again came down with a big kill to give the Oilers a 17-14 edge.
Montebello won the second game on a missed kill attempt by senior middle Mason Briglio (eight kills) at the back of the court.
Junior outside hitter Jimmy Orozco had three blocks and junior middle Edward Octoian added four kills for the Oilers.