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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW : Valley Christian boys volleyball swept, loses for first time this season in Div. 4 title match

The Valley Christian High boys volleyball team dropped a 28-26, 25-22, 25-23 decision to Marina High last Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship match. The Defenders, who had lost three sets in the regular season and two more in the semifinals, end their season at 16-2. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF.

 

June 10, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

HUNTINGTON BEACH-Like many high school teams in the spring season in many sports, the Valley Christian High boys volleyball squad was another victim of the craziness that has been the 2021 pandemic season. The Defenders fielded a team of just eight players but was able to run the tables and go undefeated in 16 matches leading up to their tilt at Marina High last Saturday evening in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship match.

V.C. swept 10 of the 12 regular season matches, losing just three sets, then swept its first three playoff opponents before surviving a five-set match with Laguna Hills in the semifinals. But, against the top-ranked Vikings, the second-ranked Defenders got a bad taste of their own medicine and were swept 28-26, 25-22, 25-23.

“I think some teams will look at an undefeated season and I think it’s a double-edged sword,” said V.C. head coach Jason Kwak. “Record-wise, it looks like, ‘hey, you have an undefeated season’. But when you also have that, you kind of go with the mindset of, ‘hey, I’m invincible’. I don’t think that’s the case for us. I think our team benefited from having a lesser league [competition] due to Covid. It wasn’t as strong, but it also allowed our new guys to get game experience.

“Because we’ve had so much inexperience, and it was experience-learning, I think that undefeated season didn’t really come back to haunt us,” he continued. “What I believe, ultimately, we weren’t prepared for was the inexperience.”

The Defenders had not been challenged that much until the semifinals and it showed early in the first set against Marina, which bolted to an 11-5 lead after an ace was served by Vincent Dang. V.C. trailed by as many as seven points on three different occasions late in the first rotation and in the first moments of the second rotation. But the Olympic League champions chipped away at their deficit and regained the lead at 25-24 on a Marina hitting error. It was the second three-point rally within the third rotation and only the third time in the set that V.C. had put together at least a three-point rally.

The Defenders had four leads in the opening set and each time, it was just by a point. Junior outside hitter Cole Oliver had eight of the team’s 15 kills in the first set with junior outside hitter Micah Sybesma, fresh off playing in the boys basketball semifinals the night before, adding five kills.

“I’m not surprised at all by the poise that our guys make,” Kwak said. “That’s just been our staple for the season. For guys with no experience to come in and kind of learn in a very fast-paced environment…I wasn’t surprised at all that we made that push.”

V.C. came out much stronger in the second set and led 9-4 after a Sybesma kill. That would be the largest lead for the Defenders in the set as the Vikings quickly tied the set on four straight aces from Dyllan Nguyen. From there, there would be eight ties and four lead changes with the last coming at 18-17 on a kill from Daniel Purtell. V.C. wouldn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way and were held to only five kills, three coming from Oliver.

Marina owned the first time through the rotation in the third set, leading by three points four different times. But the Defenders managed to tie the set at 9-9 following consecutive kills from Oliver. From that point on, there would be five ties and two lead changes until the Vikings gained some beathing room with a five-point scoring spree, making it 21-16.

Once again, the Defenders refused to go away quietly as Oliver’s ace made it 22-20, then kills from Sybesma and Oliver tied everything at 22-22. But Purtell closed the match with back to back kills to end any last minute hopes for V.C.

“I think being in tough matches takes a lot, not just physically, but mentally it takes a toll,” Kwak said. “For us to be here for the first time and just being in this kind of environment, I think it was more of a shocker for them. Not only do you exert a lot of energy physically, but to constantly stay locked in, to constantly have that communication…it takes a lot mentally.”

Oliver led V.C. with 16 kills while Sybesma added 13 kills. The Defenders would see their season end with a 28-26, 25-23, 24-26, 20-25, 15-11 loss to Francis Parker High this past Tuesday night in the Southern California Division III regionals. V.C. was going for the program’s fourth divisional championship, having won Division 3 titles in 2007 over Santa Monica High, in 2011 over Burbank-based Burroughs High and in 2016 over Cathedral High. The Defenders graduate one of the eight who were on the team and if everyone comes back next spring, they will have four returning seniors.

“I hope that we’ve done enough to keep drawing more support out and going back to a normal season,” Kwak said. “Hopefully that will help entice more kids to come out. It’s tough; we return everyone but [senior setter] Bryce [Jones]. But we have a huge, huge hole to fill in Bryce.”

SOFTBALL

Cerritos High, ranked eighth in Division 3, upset top-ranked Whittier Christian High 4-3 this past Tuesday to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2000 when that team captured the Division II championship. The Lady Dons, who improved to 22-1, faced unranked Sultana High on June 10 for the right to play in the championship game.

Against Whittier Christian, the Lady Dons scored twice in the top of the fourth inning to erase an early 2-0 deficit. Sophomore right fielder Camile Lara singled, moved to second on an error and scored when junior second baseman Katelyn Caneda singled and later came home on an error. Two innings later, Lara walked and one out later, senior first baseman Samiya Jones also walked and was replaced by freshman courtesy runner Natalie Gardea. A wild pitch moved both runners up and junior pitcher Erin Gibbs knocked both in with a base hit. Gibbs would scatter six hits, allow one earned run and strike out five batters.

In Division 1 action, unranked Gahr High lost to Mater Dei High, also unranked, 6-3 last Thursday to end its season at 14-7 while La Mirada High, ranked eighth, defeated Cypress High 9-5 last Thursday before falling to ninth-ranked Los Alamitos High 5-0 last Saturday, ending its season at 20-6.

Artesia High lost to third-ranked Arlington High 8-6 in a Division 4 first round game last Thursday, sending the Lady Pioneers to 6-6 while in Division 5, Norwalk High also lost a first round game, 14-4 to Fillmore High last Thursday to fall to 7-9.

BASEBALL

All four area teams didn’t get out of the second round of the playoffs with three of the four losing this past Tuesday. In Division 1 action, La Mirada blanked West Ranch High 3-0 last Thursday, then was eliminated by sixth-ranked Bishop Amat High 8-2 to end its season at 19-12.

Gahr knocked off Long Beach Poly High 6-2 last Friday on the road before dropping a 10-1 decision to second-ranked Sierra Canyon High in a Division 2 second round game. The Gladiators conclude their campaign at 16-14.

Cerritos, which won the 605 League and earned a first round bye in the Division 3 playoffs, fell to top-ranked Hart High 5-2. The Dons wrapped up the season at 18-5.

In Division 6 action, seventh-ranked V.C. was doubled up by Barstow High 12-6 in 10 innings last Thursday to end its season at 18-6.

TRACK AND FIELD

A pair of area athletes advanced to the CIF-SS divisional finals, which will be held on Saturday. Artesia senior Daniel Chung was among several Division 3 pole vaulters to qualify in last Saturday’s preliminaries with a mark of 12 feet, which was the best in the division. The Division 3 finals will be held at Estancia High.

The Division 4 finals, which will be held at Carpinteria High, will see Whitney senior Khang Dinh compete in the discus event. Dinh had the fifth best mark in the preliminaries at 109-08.

 

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