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The mission begins

Posted: March 26, 2008 1:32 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Valencia player Skyler Seymour leaps to spike the ball over the net during the Vikings' match against West Ranch on Tuesday. Valencia defeated West Ranch 3-0.

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Just one match into the Foothill League boys volleyball season and Valencia left little doubt about who is the team to beat.

But West Ranch showed it may not be far behind.

The Wildcats stayed with the Vikings for the final two games before succumbing to Valencia's superior firepower in the second half of the last two games.

Valencia (11-1, 1-0) swept the Wildcats 25-15, 25-16 and 25-18 at West Ranch High Tuesday night to open league play with its 64th straight Foothill League win.

But the score was closer than it might seem.

"We can't underestimate anyone in league," said Valencia's Jim Baughman. "We can't come in all cocky and expect to win and underestimate everyone."

The Vikings, No. 1 in the country according to Rivals.com, opened the match with an 11-4 run to seize control of the first game, but all four Wildcat points came from Valencia errors.

"We definitely can improve on a lot of things," said the Vikings' Skyler Seymour. "We took it a little more casually than we wanted to."

While the Wildcats came into the match with "nothing to lose" as head coach Nate Sparks said, it was the Vikings who came out loose and took care of business.

"We came in pretty loose, but we played solid all night," said Valencia head coach Mark Knudsen. "We kept a good level of intensity through the whole match."

Back-to-back kills by Jamey Ker and Baughman put the Vikings up 15-5, and restored order in the first game as Valencia rolled to a 25-15 win.

In the second game, five different Vikings notched kills and after a West Ranch (6-5, 0-1) timeout led to another Ker kill, the Vikings were up 23-14 and had all the momentum.

A kill from Seymour put Valencia up 24-16, and when the Wildcats touched the net on the next point, the Vikings appeared on their way to an easy sweep of the Wildcats.

West Ranch, however, had other ideas.

Two straight errors from Valencia on Nate Reynolds' serves to start the third game and the Wildcats claimed their biggest, and only, lead of the night 2-0 in the final stanza.

"We played extremely well, but their serving took us off," Sparks said. "We played with them offensively and defensively, but their serving was really tough."

Once Valencia got to serving in the third game, it slowly took over the game, and eventually the match.

"We got off to a rough start (in the third game) and we slowly crawled back in," said Valencia's Jon Griffith, "but, they played well serving and blocking us."

The game went back and forth and when Griffith served into the net, West Ranch pulled even with Valencia at 10 all.
A kill from Caio Schmitd brought the Wildcats within one at 12-11.

Valencia then went on a 6-0 run to go up 18-12 but the Wildcats had one last spurt in them.

West Ranch's Matt Puimott smashed a kill to cut the lead to 19-16 Valencia, but that was as close as the Wildcats would get.

Two straight kills from Ker to finished off West Ranch.

"We wanted to prove we were No. 1 in the nation," Seymour said. "We just want to re-establish ourselves as No. 1 again."

For the Wildcats, the match proved a fair measuring stick and gave Sparks optimism heading into the rest of the year.
"We know what to live up to. We know what we need to improve on and we saw what we need to do to improve," Sparks said. "If we keep playing like we did tonight, though, we will definitely be in the playoffs. We were aggressive and didn't back down like we did in the past and we played well as a team all night."

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