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Strange Sensation

Valencia boys volleyball fails to make semifinals for first time since 2000

Posted: May 22, 2009 10:18 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia's Josh Duarte (32) and Steven Crane, right, react with teammate Brock Oppler after losing to Royal 3-2 Friday at Valencia High School.

 
Valencia boys volleyball has grown accustomed to playing in the late rounds of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs.

And after dropping the first two games to Royal of Simi Valley, the Vikings began to do the seemingly impossible and forced a fifth and deciding game against the senior-laden Highlanders.

But Valencia fell a mere four points short Friday night and were eliminated 3-2 in a quarterfinal match at Valencia High.

Much has been made this season about the youth and inexperience of the Vikings (21-12), and against Royal (19-6), it appeared to get the best of them early on.

“There are a lot of young guys in this league, but they are the only ones that were still playing,” said Valencia head coach Mark Knudsen. “The fought through the adversity.”

This marks the first year since 2000 when the Vikings lost to San Gabriel in the first round, that Valencia will not play in the semifinals.

Up late in the first game, the Highlanders rattled off six unanswered points, winning 26-24.

The effects of game one looked to carry over into the second game, when again, the Vikings lost 25-18.

“We just lost focus,” said Valencia senior Jon Souisa. “They have some great hitters. They pounded us and we got down on ourselves.”

Then came the turn.

The Vikings stormed back in the third game, trading points late before Souisa put the game 25-23 away with a powerful kill.

The senior finished with 16 kills on the night, refusing to let his team give up on the game and the season.

Junior Daniel Johnson began to pick up his game as well, racking up 10 total kills — seven of which came in the games four and five.

“I just wanted to do for the seniors,” Johson said.

Up 16-10 midway through game four, Valencia began to fade late after Royal went on a 12-2 run.

But the Vikings would not go away, and coming out of a timeout, posted seven straight points to win 25-22 and force game five.

“We just left everything on the court,” said sophomore outside hitter Broc Oppler, who finished with nine kills.

But in game five the Highlanders took advantage of the Vikings’ miscues and got strong play at the net from senior outside hitters Matt Janke, Tyler Petersen and senior setter Jerame Maas, winning 15-11.

The gravity of each point was not lost on anyone.

“They knew it; felt it,” said Royal head coach Dean Borth. “We all play off each other really well. That was one of the best matches I’ve been a part of in my 20 years.”

Though their season is over, the future looks bright for the Vikings.

“I’m very opt om is tic,” Knudsen said. “I like the outlook for the next couple years.”

6-foot-six-inch middle blocker Josh Duarte had six kills for Valencia, while junior setter Steven Crane recorded 50 assists and junior Nick Ferry finished with 26 digs.

The Vikings now say goodbye to Souisa, Mitchel Morris and Garrett Steadman.

pputignano@the-signal.com

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