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John Glenn boys volleyball soaring to new heights

By Loren Kopff

John Glenn High School fielded a boys volleyball team for the first time in 2002 and like most first-year programs, immediately had little success. The Eagles, though, advanced to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV playoffs the next two seasons and had adequate campaigns up until 2008.
Coming into this season, the Eagles had stumbled to futility, going 2-34 in Suburban League action since their last playoff trip. Now, the Glenn boys volleyball program is doing a major 180 degree turn around and is certainly in contention of its first league title. Considering that the league has been dominated by Mayfair and Cerritos, who have combined for every league title since Glenn fielded a team (Norwalk shared its lone title with Mayfair in 2010), head coach Davion Jackson was sensing something good before the team took the court on Feb. 26 against Pioneer.
The Eagles were trailing Pioneer 2-1 but won the fourth set 25-15 and got the win in the fifth set 18-16. After that, the Eagles swept their next seven opponents heading into the San Gabriel Tournament before finally tasting defeat.
“I kind of knew that towards the end of last season,” Jackson said of the fast start to this season. “Once we started off so slow, we picked up towards the end of the season. I knew this year we were going to have something special. As far as being that special, I didn’t know. Once we rallied back, I saw the fight and I saw the desire in these kids’ eyes.”
The Eagles have had three winning seasons in the past and have advanced to the playoffs five times, all resulting in three-set first round sweeps. Their best seasons were in 2003 and 2004 when they ended 11-10. But last season, Glenn began to turn it around, going 8-12 overall, 6-6 in league and finishing in third place. That small burst of momentum has carried over to this season where the Eagles entered this past Tuesday’s match with La Mirada tied for first place with Bellflower with a 5-1 league mark. The only other setbacks for Glenn came in the San Gabriel Tournament.
“It looks like it’s getting there,” Jackson said of his team’s progression. “The program is starting to do a lot better. The numbers are a lot better. The kids want to play and they want to be out there. It seems like it’s turning for the better.
“My effort was to stick with it and not give up just because we were losing,” Jackson added. “The kids at [Glenn] respond well to me and that’s why I wanted to stay there and at least give it a shot and see if I can get these kids to actually believe in something. Once I got them to believe in me, they believed in the program and we can only go up from here.”
The Eagles have been paced by senior setter Jose Fernandez, senior outside hitter Daniel Alvarez, junior outside hitter/middle blocker Marcos Aguirre, junior opposite hitter Jovanni Michel and junior middle blocker Erich Webb. While Jackson, who graduated from Glenn in 2004, carries a dozen players, he says there are seven that he puts on the court virtually all the time.
“We have three or four great leaders on the team and these guys have talked about it since they were freshmen and sophomores,” Jackson said. “I don’t worry once we lose a match because I know that they keep their heads up. They want to win; they want to succeed in this game. To be honest, my motto to them is to stay humble because John Glenn volleyball has taken a major dip over the past few years. Now that we’re doing good, I’m trying to preach to them to stay humble.”
The Glenn athletic program hasn’t had much success with league championships this century. In fact, the school has won only 10 league titles since 2000-boys soccer in 2002, girls basketball in 2007 and eight wrestling titles. Jackson hopes to add to that number. Although his team is tied with Bellflower entering the second round of league action, he’s not looking past anyone despite the league being a little down from past seasons.
“I thought it was going to be a lot better this year,” Jackson said. “But as you see, things happened with different programs and with different coaches. But right now I can’t get caught up with what everybody else is doing. I’m preaching to my guys that we’re sitting at the top.”
Glenn will have three straight road matches before hosting Artesia on Apr. 23. The rematch with Bellflower will be on Apr. 25, which will be senior day for the Eagles.

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