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Esperanza finishes perfect run in Century League
SANTA ANA – Isaac Owens wanted to make sure his Esperanza boys volleyball team remained focused on the business at hand Wednesday evening.
The Aztecs, ranked No. 3 in the county, had their sights set on finishing another perfect Century League season if they could get past Foothill.
Foothill entered the night with a chance to earn a share of the league title.
"I think tonight was the scariest part of the league for me," Owens, Esperanza's coach, said. "They're 10-1 at home and on senior night. ... I actually came in and got after them (our plkayers) and told them we needed to play hard and not to take them lightly."
The Aztecs (23-3, 12-0) heeded Owens' words and swept the host Knights, 25-18, 25-15, 25-6. The victory was the 16th consecutive for Esperanza. The last loss came March 10 in the Best of the West Tournament in San Diego.
Esperanza has lost just one league match in the past three years, dating to 2010 in the Sunset League. The Aztecs lost only one game in league play this year.
Sophomore Jake Arnitz led the Aztecs with 11 kills. Jake Johnson added nine.
"We have some good guys, there's no doubt about it," Owens said. "That's what it takes to be in Division 1. We have a good group of guys."
The victory should also solidify the Aztecs as the second seed in the upcoming CIF-SS playoffs. They have been ranked second, behind Loyola of Los Angeles, for several weeks.
"They're so physical," Foothill coach Josh Ko said of Esperanza. "They have a sophomore opposite (Arnitz) that's super talented and all their guys are just so physical and so big. It was tough for us to play at that speed tonight."
Foothill finished the regular season 21-11 overall and 10-2.
The Knights will likely get a home match in the first round of the CIF playoffs. The pairings will be announced Saturday morning.
The Knights finished in third place last year, but showed great improvement this year under Ko, a first-year coach.
"When we came in, we decided to work hard all together," Ko said. "They definitely bought into what the coaching staff has brought to the table."
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